School run gives lift to National Express revenues

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TRANSPORT operator National Express said it had made a good start to 2013, helped by continued growth at its North American business.

The British bus, coach and trains operator reported an 18 per cent rise in total revenues at its North American school bus unit, which includes the impact of the Petermann school business, which it bought last May.

The company said its North American transit operations were delivering annual revenues of around $75m, and it has an active contract pipeline worth $200m in revenues to bid for this year.

National Express said revenue in Spain has been resilient, despite a backdrop of economic uncertainty and austerity, with underlying sales at its urban bus unit up five per cent since the start of the year.

However, sales at its Spanish coach business fell five per cent during the period.

Its Moroccan bus business was growing well, while its new German coach service had made a good start, it said.

The group said revenues at its British bus division were up three per cent so far this year, with sales at its UK coach service up one per cent.

It said its c2c commuter rail service, which runs between London and South Essex, had delivered “good revenue growth” so far this year and that it was in “constructive negotiations” with the Department for Transport to extend the c2c contract, ahead of rebidding for the long-term Essex Thameside franchise.

The company said its financial position remained strong, with ample liquidity and medium-term debt maturity.

It expects its full year capital investment to be around £100m after having spent £40m in the first quarter.

Dean Finch, group chief executive, said: “We have made a positive start to the year, continuing to deliver a high level of value and service to our customers and building our new business pipeline through regular contract wins.

“Our focus on driving up returns on capital, strong cash generation, organic growth and leveraging our international transport skills to deliver new opportunities is proving to be successful.”

In the UK coach division, Easter revenue was “encouraging”, up six per cent year-on-year.

UK coach will also benefit from new contracts to operate services between London Luton Airport and London Victoria, National Express said in yesterday’s trading update.