FirstGroup PLC (LON:FGP) cut its losses in the half-year to end September as it adjusted to reduced numbers of journeys due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The group’s UK rail and bus operation are being subsidised under a government support scheme while many of its overseas operations are either fixed contracts or also being supported.

Revenues in the half-year to end September 2020 fell by 12% to £3.1bn with pre-tax losses of £100.1mln compared to £187.1mln a year earlier.

Operating losses reduced to £16.4mln from £118.1mln, which FirstGroup said was ahead of its expectations due to the government support, tight cost controls and a strong recovery by its US operations.  

On an adjusted basis, operating profits were £10.4mln against £88.9mln.

Matthew Gregory, chief executive, said the outlook remained uncertain because of the pandemic but the group had performed ahead of expectations in the first half.

Talks over a sale of its US businesses are ongoing, it added, with a ‘number’ of credible potential buyers said to be interested.

FirstGroup added it had liquidity of £805mln available at the end of the first half.

Separately, the transport group it had agreed to pay an additional £33.2mln to end its South West rail franchise while its Avanti was finishing with no extra cost.

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