Stagecoach profits rev up as bus business blooms

The transport group has announced better-than-expected full year profits, putting the growth down to a boost in performance from regional buses.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Stagecoach is one of Britain’s largest bus and coach operators, so you might think it would be a sitting duck when the nation’s purse strings tighten and people opt to walk to work to save a few quid. But, you’d be wrong: underlying profits in the year to April 30th rose by £15.5m to £218m. 

The firm says that the results reflect its strategy of targeting ‘organic growth in our bus networks’ (sounds nasty) but rather cockily also thinks that its results ‘are no coincidence’. To be fair, the company has reported growth for ten consecutive years, so it appears they are doing something right.

But it’s not just the buses that are putting on a good show. The company, which is still chaired by its founder Sir Brian Souter, also operates the South West Trains and East Midlands Trains rail franchises, which between them reported a 5.9% rise in sales. Profits rose £22.8m to £49.9m, although such a big leap is helped partly by the fact that East Midlands Trains had to stomach a big loss the year before.

It’s worth noting that Stagecoach also has a 49% stake in Virgin Rail, but whilst revenues there increased by 3.5% for the year, profits fell by about 40% to just under £13m. 

Stagecoach’s chief exec, Martin Griffiths, said: ‘We believe the public transport market has long-term fundamental strengths and there is a positive outlook in the markets in which we operate. The private sector has transformed bus and rail travel in recent decades, reducing costs for taxpayers and making a huge positive contribution to our economy.’ Ahem. And piling sky-rocketing fares on the commuters.

And while we’re on Griffiths’ comments, we can’t help but notice that he also refers to what he sees as a ‘ground-breaking alliance at South West Trains with Network Rail’. Try commuting to work in the morning before heaping praise on it, eh Griffiths?

Still, shareholders are predictably very happy with these results, with the price of shares rising 4.5% to 313 pence at the time of writing. Late trains or not, it’s a commendable set of results.

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