StockMarketWire.com - First Group said it would sell its greyhound business as part of plan to slim down its operations and focus on its first student and first transit segments, which helped the transport company slash annual losses.

The group plans to separate Greyhound and First Bus from the group, and focus on First Student and First Transit, its contract-based businesses in its core market, North America.

Its first rail segment could also be on the chopping block, with the company awaiting the outcome of UK government review into the rail industry. Any future commitments to UK rail would need to have an 'appropriate balance of potential risks and rewards for its shareholders,' the company said.

But for now, first rail’s goal 'remains to add value through our operational expertise and strong industry relationships,' it added.

A formal sale process for Greyhound was underway, and the company said it would pursue 'structural alternatives' for its first bus segment, citing limited synergies with other parts of division of the company.

The change in tact to focus on First Student and First Transit, which together generate the bulk of profits, come as the company reported improved annual performance.

For the year to 31 March, pre-tax losses narrowed to £97.9m from £326.9m a year earlier and revenue grew 11.4% to £7.1bn.

On an underlying basis, adjusted pre-tax profit grew 13.9% to £226.3m and revenues rose 5.7%, reflecting growth and adjusted margin improvement in First Student and First Bus, and a higher First Rail contribution, but this was partially offset by lower Greyhound and First Transit performances.

'Our trading performance was ahead of our expectations for the year, with First Student returning to growth with increased margins, First Bus delivering growth and higher margins, and First Rail adjusted profit ahead of expectations in the year; Greyhound faces challenging market conditions but we are seeing early results from the plan we put in place last year,' said Chief Executive Matthew Gregory.

'By executing the portfolio rationalisation plans we have detailed in a separate announcement today, our future emphasis will be on First Student and First Transit, our core contracting businesses in North America.'

'We see significant potential to generate long term sustainable value and growth from the solid platform these businesses provide in the North American mobility services sector. We are intent on executing this strategy at pace, having full regard to the regulatory and stakeholder procedures and approvals that will be required.'




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