A 44.5% leap in profit helped to drive shares
in Go-Ahead Group higher on Thursday, as the transport company cheered with its full-year results.
Profit before tax rose from £63.1m to £91.2m year-on-year, helped by a 5.1% increase in revenue to £2,702.4m (2013: £2,571.8m). Basic earnings per share climbed from 107.8p to 164.0p.
Divisionally, revenue from its bus operations increased 5.1% from £761.5m to £800.5m, with the profit margin rising from 9.9% to 10.4%.
It was the strongest-ever performance by the division, with record operating profit of £83.5m, up from £75.2m a year earlier. For the 2014/15 year, the group expects capital expenditure to total around £40m.
Within rail, turnover climbed from £1,810.3m to £1,901.9m, with the margin increasing from 0.6% to 1.0%. Go-Ahead said the result "significantly exceeded our initial expectations", with overall passenger revenue growth of 5.4% and operating profit up £8.2m at £19.7m.
Chief executive David Brown said: "Delivering for our customers is a prerequisite to the increasing financial strength of our business. The group performed very well in the financial year with our bus and rail divisions both delivering strong results, which were significantly ahead of our initial expectations for the year. Overall operating profit was £103.2m, up 19% from last year."
He continued: "Record numbers of passengers travelled on our services. Our deregulated bus division achieved a sector leading customer satisfaction score of 92%. Another key achievement in the year was winning the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise on the basis of both quality for the passenger and value for money to the taxpayer.
"We are also pleased to be on the shortlists for the Department for Transport's Northern and TransPennine rail franchise competitions and we look forward to submitting strong bids, working collaboratively with industry partners."
At the year-end the group was halfway to its bus operating profit target having made steady progress during the year and it remained confident it will achieve the £100m goal by 2015/16.
The group said it is in a very good financial position, with strong cash management allowing it to increase investment while reducing net debt.
Citing a "robust" balance sheet and its confidence in its performance and prospects, the company proposed a full-year dividend of 84.5p, an increase of 4.3%, in line with its policy.
"Together these successes contributed towards us ending the year as a stronger group with enhanced prospects for the future," it added.
Shares had motored 3.17% higher to 2,345p by 08:39.