Full Year Results for the year ended 31 December 2019

27 February 2020 7:00 AM

Records achieved; new ambitions set

Dean Finch, National Express Group Chief Executive said:

“National Express has again delivered a record set of results. Revenue and profit are up strongly and free cash performance has beaten our expectations. All businesses have delivered organic growth. I am particularly pleased with North America achieving a 10% margin and significantly increasing the number of customers rating their services five-star. The Group is also carrying significantly more passengers.

Major contracts were retained in North America and Spain. We became Morocco’s largest urban bus operator, with new contracts in Rabat and Casablanca more than tripling the size of our operations when fully mobilised. UK coach won its first overseas contract and West Midlands bus is adding routes and growing its accessible transport business.

We combined organic growth in every division with continued diversification into complementary markets, such as our major WeDriveU acquisition which has grown revenue by over 30%. Each division has a strong pipeline of new acquisition and contract opportunities to target this year.

As industry leaders we are delighted to make major pledges in the shift to zero emission vehicles. National Express will not buy another diesel bus in the UK and lead the transition to zero emission coaches. Our ambition is for our UK bus business to become zero emission by 2030 with UK coach by 2035. We believe these commitments are not only the right thing to do, but will also help strengthen the position of quality public transport in the communities we serve.”

Financial highlights


2019 2018 Change In constant currency

Continuing operations

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Group operating profit





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Net debt





Full year proposed dividend





Highlights: organic profit growth in every division and further improving returns

  • Another record Group profit, with statutory operating profit of £242.3 million, up 12.5%.
  • Free cash flow beat expectations at £178.7 million, despite increased investment.
  • Gearing of 2.4x (2018: 2.3x); or down 0.2x on a like-for-like basis:
    • £214 million of the increase in net debt is attributable to IFRS 16.
  • ROCE is flat at 12.4%, post-IFRS 16; or up 80 bps on a like-for-like basis.
  • Proposed final dividend increased by 10% to 11.19 pence; the fourth 10% increase in 5 years.

Operational excellence: focusing on what customers want to drive shareholder returns

  • Every division delivered revenue growth, with ALSA and North America setting records:
    • ALSA: grew by 11.7% in constant currency to €940.6 million;
    • North America: grew by 11.1% in constant currency to $1.57 billion;
    • UK: grew by 3.9% to £599.7 million;
    • German Rail: grew by 33.8% in constant currency to €102.5 million, reflecting the start-up of two new contracts.
  • Record normalised operating profits in ALSA and North America again combined with strong UK growth:
    • ALSA: grew 4.9% in constant currency to €124.9 million;
    • North America: grew by 21.4% on a constant currency basis, to $157 million;
    • UK: grew 6.5% to £85.0 million.
  • Group passenger numbers up 5.1% year-on-year:
    • Record passenger numbers in both ALSA and UK coach;
    • West Midlands has the fastest growing bus patronage of any major UK city-region.
  • A relentless focus on excellence is driving efficiency:
    • Both ALSA’s (up 2.9%) and UK coach’s (up 2.4%) occupancy rates increased in the period;
    • UK coach (up 4.8%) and UK bus (up 3.2%) both improved commercial revenue per mile;
    • The Master Schedule programme in North America is driving operational efficiency and significant savings, as route length is forensically matched to driver hours.

Technology investment to underpin excellence, efficiency and innovation

  • DriveCam now installed on 24,750 vehicles and supported by an industry-leading driver monitoring and coaching regime in each division:
    • This safety leadership is first and foremost saving lives, but also benefiting cost of claims.
  • The growth in digital revenue continues strongly, with the proportion of retail sales through these channels up 16.5%, in the period:
    • Significant further growth in ancillary sales, up 9% in UK coach and 13.9% in ALSA;
    • RMS expected to continue to drive organic growth and occupancy rate increases in 2020.

Targeted growth through contract extensions, acquisitions and market diversification

  • Significant contract wins in North America and Spain:
    • Our two largest Transit contracts secured multi-year extensions, on improved terms;
    • Our largest urban bus contract in Spain (Bilbao) retained for 10 years;
    • Many other renewals and extensions secured because of operational excellence reputation.
  • With our Rabat and Casablanca contracts (together worth around €2 billion in revenue across their life), we are now Morocco’s largest urban bus operator:
    • Further opportunities for growth in other Moroccan cities.
  • Nine acquisitions made in the year, including WeDriveU (WDU), Silicon Valley’s premier employee shuttle business:
    • WDU has met its ambitious targets with revenue increasing by over 30%, grown in every market it is in and expanded into new segments already;
    • We retain a strong pipeline of opportunities across our businesses.

A bold agenda for environmental leadership

  • We are today making significant industry-leading commitments to accelerate the shift to zero emission vehicles. We will:
    • Not buy another diesel bus in the UK;
    • Lead the transition to zero emission coaches, with a target for our first electric coaches in service next year;
    • Set ambitions for our UK bus and UK coach businesses to be zero emission by 2030 and 2035, respectively;
    • Include environmental targets as 25% of the long term incentive plan for all senior executives, from this year.


National Express Group PLC

Chris Davies, Group Finance Director 0121 460 8655
Louise Richardson, Head of Investor Relations 07827 807766


Neil Bennett and James McFarlane 020 7379 5151


There will be a presentation and webcast for investors and analysts at 09.00am on 27 February 2020. Details are available from Mads Neumann at Maitland.

To supplement IFRS reporting, we also present our results on a normalised basis which shows the performance of the business before intangible amortisation for acquired businesses. In years when there are discontinued operations, significant disposals or restructuring costs these are typically also removed from normalised results. The Board believes that this gives a more comparable year-on-year indication of the operating performance of the Group and allows the users of financial statements to understand management’s key performance measures. Unless otherwise noted, all references to profit measures throughout this review are for continuing operations for both the current and prior reporting period. In addition to performance measures directly observable in the Group financial statements (IFRS measures), alternative financial measures are presented that are used internally by management as key measures to assess performance. Further explanation in relation to these measures can be found on page 24



Legal Entity Identifier: 213800A8IQEMY8PA5X34

Classification: 1.1 (with reference to DTR6 Annex 1R)



If approved by shareholders at the AGM on 7 May 2020, the final dividend of 11.19p per ordinary share will be paid on 12 May 2020 to those shareholders registered on 24 April 2020.

Download the 2019 Full Year Results in PDF format

Results webcast

Further reading