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UPDATE 2-National Express posts loss as passengers stay at home

Thu, 13th Aug 2020 07:50

* Company posts loss vs profit a yr ago

* H1 revenue down 23%

* Shares fall 12%
(Adds shares, analyst comments, background)

By Yadarisa Shabong

Aug 13 (Reuters) - Bus company National Express
reported a pre-tax loss of 61 million pounds ($79.69 million)
for the first half on Thursday and pledged further action to
strengthen the balance sheet as travel remains at "much
suppressed levels".

Shares in the British company, which operates urban and long
haul buses and more than 20,000 school buses in North America,
fell 12% in early trade.

So far this year, the stock has lost around two thirds of
its value, Refinitiv Eikon data shows, as all transport
providers have been hit by school closures and home-working
because of the pandemic.

"While there are some signs of demand returning, levels are
both significantly reduced and subject to variability given
local lockdowns, the impact of quarantines and uncertainty over
the extent of U.S. school re-openings," outgoing CEO Dean Finch
said in a statement.

The statement said National Express would continue with
action "to strengthen the balance sheet, improve liquidity, cut
capital and operational costs."

The company's half-year revenue, bolstered by British
government aid programmes since March, fell 23%.

It said its crisis planning showed it would be able to meet
debt tests over the next year, necessary to satisfy its
creditors.

Last month, rival FirstGroup said its survival was
in question after a collapse in passenger numbers led to a 153
million pound loss for the year.

Analysts at Liberum said they believe public transport usage
will revert to normal on a 12-to-24 month view. "However, the
prospects of a quick and sharp recovery are fading," they said.

At the height of lockdowns in May, National Express raised
equity of about 230 million pounds and has received British
government aid until October.

Its underlying pre-tax loss of 60.7 million pounds for the
six months to June 30 compares with a 114.6 million pounds
profit a year earlier.
($1 = 0.7655 pounds)
(Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi
Aich and Barbara Lewis)

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