Some of Britain's biggest transport companies have scrapped dividend payments to investors as they struggle with profits while commuters stay away from buses and trains.

Stagecoach and Go Ahead both warned investors should not expect a payout, while FirstGroup suspended its financial guidance.

Perth-based Stagecoach said it does not expect to meet its earnings expectations for the 2020 financial year as the virus affects operations.

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Stagecoach warned shareholders any further dividends are unlikely this year.

The company is in talks with Transport for London to change the details of its contract.

The board will take a 50% pay cut and members are forsaking their bonuses, while no new non-essential staff will be hired.

Aberdeen-based FirstGroup said it is no longer able to give guidance for the remainder of its financial year, which ends March 31.

"In recent days the group has seen unprecedented changes in the market environments for all its businesses," it said in a statement.

"There have been substantial volume reductions in our passenger demand businesses in North America and the UK."

Newcastle-based Go-Ahead Group said it is slashing its capital spending as people decide to stay away from its buses.

It has also suspended its proposed dividend.

Chief executive David Brown said: "Go-Ahead provides vital services, moving and connecting people to their communities across our networks.

"These services have become increasingly important to those working in essential roles such as NHS workers, emergency services and those in the food supply chain."

Education publisher Pearson has warned that its profit will take a hit as tests and academic years are cancelled around the world to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The academic publisher said that cancellations in the UK, US and South Africa meant that most of its test centres have closed until the middle of April.

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As a result, operating profit is now forecast to be between £25 million to £35 million lower than previously expected.

"Uncertainty in our businesses that rely on learners and staff being able to access physical sites... which will have a negative impact on Pearson profits," the company said in a statement.

It added that its English franchise business in Brazil could take a blow as well if the crisis broadens.

In the US, Pearson expects a £15 million hit to operating profit as several states decided to postpone or waive testing this academic year.

The business warned that this figure could grow as more states may follow suit.
It cancelled plans to return money to investors by buying its own shares.
"As we manage the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our business, and with the likelihood of prolonged uncertainty, the Pearson board has decided it is prudent to pause our share buyback," it said in a statement.

The coronavirus outbreak has brought the UK economy to a temporary standstill, according to a quarterly report.

KPMG UK's latest quarterly Economic Outlook forecasts a 2.6% decline for 2020 - with flat growth predicted in the second half of the year.

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A protracted outbreak of Covid-19 could also result in a more severe impact than the 2008-09 downturn with a 5.4% fall.

In both scenarios though, the report suggests the country's economy is expected to recover by the second half of 2021 - assuming the public health measures put in place stem the rise in the number of cases.

Yael Selfin, KPMG UK's chief economist, said: "The Covid-19 pandemic is first and foremost a human crisis.

"But there will also be a very substantial negative impact on the global economy and the UK's economic performance this year and potentially next, but the economy is expected to recover by the second half of 2021.

"Until we know how and when the Covid-19 outbreak will end, the scale of the negative economic impact will be difficult to quantify.

"However, it is now almost certain that the UK is slipping into its first significant downturn in over a decade."

On Friday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said employers would be able to apply to HM Revenue and Customs to cover 80% of the wages of staff they keep on up to £2,500 a month.

Economists have said the bill to taxpayers for the Government's unprecedented scheme could run to billions of pounds a month.

The Bank of England also cut the base rate of interest to a record-low 0.1% to ease pressure during the pandemic.

In Scotland, a £350 million support fund was announced to help those left struggling in the wake of the outbreak as part of Scottish Government measures worth around £1.9 billion.

Catherine Burnet, senior partner at KPMG UK in Scotland, said: "The latest Economic Outlook data highlights the scale of the challenge facing businesses across Scotland.

"Fiscal measures and immediate relief action from the Scottish and UK Governments have gone some way to help mitigate some of the damage, but there's widespread acknowledgement that more action will be needed in the coming months to keep the economy moving.

"The business community also needs to work together more collaboratively than ever before to ensure we're playing our role in supporting employees, customers and wider society."

Over the weekend, pubs, clubs, restaurants and other town centre staples were told to close by both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.