First Group has released its financial results for the year to the 31 March 2020.
Following a profit of £9.8m in 2019, the group has made a loss of £152.7m in the period up to 31 March 2020, mainly due to the effects of the coronavirus. A 90% reduction in passenger numbers was recorded as the lockdown started to take hold. Shares in the company fell quickly after the results were released on Wednesday 8 July.
Chief Executive Matthew Gregory said: “The funding and support we have received from governments and our customers to sustain critical transport services is testament to their importance now and for the future. We took rapid action to protect our ability to deliver continuity of the transport services that are so essential to our economies.
“Our priority since the start of the outbreak has been the health and safety of the Group’s passengers and employees. I am immensely proud of our people who are working so hard to support our communities during the crisis, by maintaining essential transport services and providing direct assistance to those who need it most.
“There is no way of predicting with any certainty how the coronavirus pandemic will continue to affect the public transportation sector and the impact it may have on customer trends longer-term. However, as leading operators in each of our markets we are strongly positioned for a recovery in passenger demand and for the opportunities that may emerge from this exceptional period. This will become ever more pertinent as the focus and drive towards zero-carbon public transportation systems inevitably increases, helping to create a better connected and more sustainable world.
“Despite the near-term uncertainty, the long-term fundamentals of our businesses remain sound. We are resolutely committed to delivering our strategy to unlock material value for all shareholders through the sale of our North American divisions at the earliest appropriate opportunity. The importance of public transport to society has never been more clearly demonstrated, and we will continue to take all necessary measures to enable the Group to emerge from this unprecedented situation in a robust position.”
Matthew added: “We are focused on First Bus becoming a leader in the transition to a low-carbon future for public transportation. We are committing to operate a zero-emission bus fleet in the UK by 2035, and do not plan to purchase any new diesel buses after December 2022. We look forward to working closely with our supply chain, industry partners and the UK Government to ensure that our shared ambitions can be taken forward following the current crisis. This builds on our investments in buses to help deliver local authorities’ air qu