UK’s Stagecoach profit surges as public transport usage picks up
(Reuters) -British bus and rail operator Stagecoach posted a jump in first-half profit on Wednesday, boosted by easing COVID-19 curbs and reopening of educational institutes and workplaces, but passenger numbers still trailed pre-pandemic levels.
The company said its passenger journeys recovered to more than 70% of 2019 levels in November before softening recently due to Storm Arwen across the UK and recent COVID-19 measures.
Transport operators are recuperating from the lows hit at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when restrictions and calls to maintain social distancing discouraged people from using public buses and trains.
While most curbs in Britain were lifted in July, the government last week imposed mask mandates in public transport to curb the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.
Stagecoach, which is in talks with rival National Express over a possible all-share takeover, said its adjusted pre-tax profit was 18.4 million pounds ($24.37 million) for the six months ended October, up from 0.4 million pounds last year.
Developments around its deal with National Express is in focus now, with the latter having a deadline of Dec. 14 to make an offer for Stagecoach or walk away. The agreement, if struck, is seen helping the public transport majors save costs with state aid set to end in the coming months.
($1 = 0.7549 pounds)
(Reporting by Muhammed Husain and Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)