Stagecoach says UK growth offsets problems in North America

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Transport giant Stagecoach today said that strong growth at its bus and rail businesses in the UK would largely offset weather-related disruption and rising costs at its North American division.

The Perth-based group said its North American bus business, which includes its budget Megabus coach operation and yellow school bus services, grew sales by 10.4 per cent in the nine months to the end of January, despite severe storms in the north-east US.

Despite the rise in sales, Stagecoach said the costs of building the business in an “increasingly competitive” inter-city coach market had led it to lower its short-term operating profit expectations for the division.

However, it said the impact of the US problems had been largely offset at a group level by “good trading” across its UK businesses and lower-than-expected finance charges.

Stagecoach said: “We remain excited by the long-term prospects for our businesses in North America as we continue to develop the business and the brand.”

In a trading update, the firm said like-for-like sales at its regional bus operations across the UK rose 3.8 per cent in the 40 weeks to 3 February, while rail sales were up 6.6 per cent.

The group’s Virgin Rail joint venture, which continues to run the West Coast mainline following the UK government’s botched franchise competition, saw sales rise 3.3 per cent.