StockMarketWire.com - National Express said statutory half year pre-tax profit jumped 24% to £80.1m in the first half of 2018.

The transport operator reported growth in free cash of over 3% to £85.2m and raised full year guidance to £170m.

ROCE increased by 20 basis points to 12.2%; net debt gearing held flat at 2.3x EBITDA and the interim dividend increased by 10.1% to 4.69p.

SALES GROWTH HIGHLIGHTS:

- North America: grew by 9.7% in constant currency to $753.2m;

- ALSA: grew by 7% in constant currency to €395.7m;

- UK: grew by 0.8% to £273.6m, with strong commercial growth in core coach (5.2%) offset by last year's strategic exit from two operations;

- German Rail: declined 1.3% in constant currency, as last year benefitted from catch up revenues (up 5.6% on an underlying basis).

CEO Dean Finch said: "National Express has had another strong start to the year, delivering its best ever half year statutory profit, up 24% year-on-year.

"Our increasingly diversified portfolio has again delivered strong results and has entered a new phase of expansion in to complementary growth markets.

"All of our divisions have grown revenue, profit and commercial passengers through a relentless focus on good customer service and technology investment.

"We also continue to make disciplined acquisitions that help grow our portfolio strategically.

"We have made seven acquisitions so far this year and have entered new fast-growing markets, providing avenues for interesting future expansion.

"Our pipeline of new opportunities remains strong and growing.

"This combination of growth in our core business and the number of exciting new opportunities allows us to again increase the interim dividend by 10%.

"We remain on course to deliver the board's expectations."




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