“While the ‘Back to School’ and end of summer vibe may be a bit of a downer for some, it will definitely put a smile of the face of transport operator FirstGroup as it looks for bus passenger volumes to creep back towards pre-Covid levels.
“The return of schools and universities will be expected to drive up the number of people using the bus and it is reassuring that the company feels able to maintain its full year guidance.
“The divestment of First Group’s US school bus and contract transport operations created controversy, with some believing the assets were sold off on the cheap, but the transaction has at least enabled the company to return capital to shareholders.
“Next on the agenda is a sale of the non-core Greyhound intercity bus franchise and management is under pressure thanks to activist investor Coast Capital’s sizeable stake in the business. This pressure is unlikely to let up too much despite the departure this month of FirstGroup CEO Matthew Gregory.
“A more streamlined business might interest bidders after FirstGroup fought off interest from private equity firm Apollo in 2018.
“In the meantime, the company is pushing its ESG credentials hard, gaining an endorsement of sorts through the recent agreement of a sustainability-linked credit facility and aiming to bolster its green credentials further with its new Lumo London-to-Edinburgh rail service. This is being pitched as the lower cost alternative to flying with plant-based food on the menu and carbon calculations published for passengers.”