FirstGroup confirmed this morning that it intends to sell all of its North American businesses and turn itself back into an operator solely of buses and trains in the UK and Ireland.
This about turn, announced by chairman David Martin and in response to shareholder pressure, has seen it begin the process of selling its contracted operations in the United States and Canada, schoolbus operator First Student and urban public transport division First Transit, in addition to the coast-to-coast Grehound coach business that was already up for sale.
“FirstGroup’s bus and rail businesses in the UK will play a key role in supporting the government’s plans to stimulate economic growth throughout the country while reducing the environmental impact of transport,” says Martin. “With the emphasis on building a stronger business for the future, they will continue to benefit from the improvement programmes already underway as well as from the government’s infrastructure spending plans announced earlier this year.
“Despite near-term uncertainty in the wider markets, there remains a fundamental need for people to travel safely and conveniently for business, education, social or recreational reasons which is essential to sustainable and thriving economies and communities. We are resolutely focused on delivering our plans – including the portfolio rationalisation strategy – in the best interests of all shareholders.”
Chief executive Matthew Gregory adds: “Our market leading businesses have attractive long term prospects and during the period we have continued to execute the clear commercial strategies that will capture their potential and create value, underpinned by our comprehensive cost efficiency programmes. Notwithstanding the challenging trading environment, we have made good progress towards our objectives to improve services for customers and unlock the inherent value within the group.”