First revenue falls 23.8%

In a period suffering a substantial loss of passengers due to the pandemic restrictions, FirstGroup revenue amounted to £3,101.6m in the first half of its 2020 financial year, falling £838.2m or 23.8% compared to the same period last year.

First reported an adjusted operating profit of £10.4m despite significant fall in revenue during the period, with profit reduction held to £99.1m compared to the prior period through variable cost savings, around £34m in fixed cost reductions and other management action, including appropriate use of job retention measures. It had a statutory operating loss of £16.4m (H1 2019: loss of £118.1m).

First Bus is operating near-full service levels to meet passenger demand within social distancing rules. It is making plans for the transitional period that would follow the lifting of restrictions, including a proposal for recovery partnerships between local authorities, DfT and operators. Passenger volumes recovered to around 60% of pre-pandemic levels in some areas prior to the second UK lockdown.

Chief Executive, Matthew Gregory, said: “Whilst the outlook remains uncertain due to the pandemic, we performed ahead of our expectations in the first half, have taken prudent action to reinforce the balance sheet and are confident in the resilience of the Group. Looking ahead, we will continue to work with our customers and communities to deliver safe, reliable and increasingly sustainable transportation as societies begin to look beyond the crisis and passengers return.

“We continue to progress our plans to rationalise the portfolio as the best means to unlock material value for all shareholders. With respect to the divestment of our North American contract businesses, we are in discussions with a number of credible potential buyers who have a long term perspective, which the company and our advisers are exploring and evaluating.”

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