National Express Reports Profit as Bus, Rail Margins Improve

National Express Group Plc, the U.K.’s biggest long-distance bus operator, returned to profit last year after a charge for exiting a rail contract dropped the company to a loss in 2009.

Net income was 61.4 million pounds ($99.5 million), or 12 pence a share, for the year ending Dec. 31, compared with a year-earlier loss of 53.5 million pounds, or 17.6 pence, the London-based company said in a statement today. Analysts had expected a profit of 50.7 million pounds, according to the averaged of six surveyed by Bloomberg.

“Following a turbulent 2009, we are rebuilding a high- quality business, focused on its core operations and established on a sound financial footing,” Chairman John Devaney said in the statement.

Chief Executive Officer Dean Finch sought to return the company to profit after taking over in February last year, in the wake of boardroom split that saw the company exit its unprofitable East Coast franchise. It incurred a one-time charge in 2009 of 64.8 million pounds for leaving the franchise. National Express also fended off takeover bids from buyout firm CVC Capital Partners Ltd. and rival U.K. transport operators Stagecoach Group Plc and Firstgroup Plc.

The company is in a good position to deal with the current rise in oil prices, Finch said. National Express has hedged all of its fuel needs for this year and 75 percent for 2012, he said on a conference call today.

National Express rose 0.2 percent to 250 pence at 8:07 a.m. in London trading.

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