First profits rise

First Group reports increasing profits in its financial results for the 53 weeks to 30 March 2024.

The positive profits news comes despite a statutory loss before tax of £24.4m, which results predominantly from charges of £146.9m relating to the Group’s termination of its participation in two Local Government Pension Schemes during the year. This comes with an offsetting £161m gain in the Condensed Consolidated Statement of Comprehensive Income.

First says the increase in Group profit is driven by continued progress in both First Bus and First Rail. Group adjusted operating profit rose to £204.3m (FY 2023: £161m).

First Bus reported an adjusted operating profit margin increase to 9.4% in the second half of 2024 and 8.3% for the full year (FY 2023: 6.5%) with increased passenger volumes, improved driver availability and data-led operational and commercial improvements more than offsetting ongoing inflationary pressures and lower funding. The company says the division is on track to achieve a 10% adjusted operating profit margin.

It reports the business division makes 1.14m passenger journeys a day (FY 2023: 1.07m) with 167m service miles operated (FY 2023: 168m). Passenger volumes over the period increased 7% compared to 2023’s figures, which the company acknowledges is supported by the £2 fare cap in England and free travel for under-22s in Scotland. It achieved total revenue of £1,012.2m (FY 2023: £902.5m), with total passenger revenue increasing 16.5% to £769.1m (FY 2023: £660.0m).

It acquired York Pullman during the period. Adjacent Services revenue increased to £219.8m (FY 2023: £175.1m) driven by First Travel Solutions, new contract wins and the contribution of Airporter and Ensignbus acquired last year.

First Bus had around 300 electric buses delivered during the period, with over 300 charger outlets installed.

“This is testament to the resilience and capability of our people across the Group” – Chief Executive Officer, Graham Sutherland

Chief Executive Officer, Graham Sutherland, said: “We have made considerable progress in our financial and operational performance in FY 2024 as we continue to transform and grow our leading First Bus and First Rail businesses. This is testament to the resilience and capability of our people across the Group and leaves us well positioned to grow and create further value for all our stakeholders.

“Our focus remains on working with government and all our stakeholders to deliver for our customers and drive modal shift. We will continue to lead in environmental and social sustainability, including building out our adjacent electrification opportunities in First Bus, and investing to grow and diversify our portfolio to ensure our business remains profitable and resilient in the long-term.”

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