By Rosemary Gallagher

PERTH-headquartered transport group Stagecoach has increased its profit and revenues over the last year, saying it has “firmly returned to growth” as passenger numbers recovered.

Stagecoach Group’s preliminary results for the year to the end of April 2022 reported revenues of almost £1.2 billion, up from £928.2m the previous year. Its total adjusted operating profit increased to £72.7m from £48.1m. Its adjusted pre-tax profit grew to £44.1m from £17m and earnings per share reached 7 pence, up from 2.7p.

In its results published yesterday Stagecoach said profit growth reflected “encouraging recovery in passenger volumes and payments from governments to ensure continuation of public transport services”.

It reduced its net debt from £312.6m to £224.3m and saw a “substantial reduction” in net pre-deferred tax pension liabilities from £263.8m to £29.8m. But it said the board did not yet believe it was appropriate to resume dividend payments.

Reporting an ongoing recovery in demand, Stagecoach said its UK regional bus passenger journeys and commercial sales were now around 81% and around 91% respectively of equivalent 2019 levels, before the global pandemic.

Earlier this year Stagecoach was bought by asset management investor DWS Infrastructure for £595m, an organisation it said “shares our vision for a more sustainable future”. Stagecoach added that it had made further investment in zero emission vehicles. Its results pointed to a sustained increase in fuel prices linked to the tragic events in Ukraine. But it added that its fuel hedging policy has minimised the immediate impact of this cost pressure. It said it was continuing to look for new opportunities to diversify and grow both in the UK and overseas.

Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Group chief executive, said it was in a good financial position, supported by recovering customer demand and continued investment grade credit ratings, as it looked to the next phase of its journey under new ownership.

He said: “We are not immune from the global macro-economic headwinds. However, we believe our good value public transport services offer consumers help in managing the cost-of-living challenges and high fuel and energy prices, supporting our ambitions around modal shift from car to bus.”

And he added: “Looking ahead, public transport remains critical to economic recovery, healthy and connected communities, levelling up the country, and delivering a net zero future, and I am confident Stagecoach has positive long-term prospects.”