Half Year results for the six months ended 30 June 2021

29 July 2021 7:00 AM

Consistently improving trajectory; well positioned for recovery and growth

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Ignacio Garat, National Express Group Chief Executive said:

“It is pleasing to see the continued improving performance trajectory across the Group over the first half of the year, despite ongoing Covid restrictions and I’m delighted to report a return to positive Underlying Operating Profit and free cash flow in the period. I am particularly pleased that we have increased Underlying Operating Profit by £54 million year on year despite reduced revenue, highlighting the impact of the cost reduction actions taken as well as the early impact of our ‘Driving Excellence’ operational improvement programme in North America.

Throughout this period, we have remained focused on the health and wellbeing of our colleagues and passengers; working in partnership with governments and customers around our markets to deliver critical public transport services. I remain grateful both for the tireless work and commitment of our colleagues across the business and for the ongoing support from governments and customers, which is testament to the strength of the relationships that we have built over many years. As restrictions lift, we look forward to strengthening those relationships further as an ever more critical part of the solution to tackling climate change, with modal shift from cars to public transport leading the way to cleaner, greener and less congested cities.

We are completing work on the business review and it is clear that we have significant profitable growth opportunities ahead. I look forward to communicating our findings and priorities in the autumn. We remain focused on managing what we can control and I am confident that as restrictions are lifted across each of our markets, we will see a strong recovery in both the demand for our services and in our financial results.”


Financial summary


 HY 2021 HY 2020 Change

Group Revenue








Group Underlying1 Operating Profit/(Loss)




Group Underlying1 Profit/(Loss) Before Tax




Underlying basic1 EPS






Group Operating Profit/(Loss)




Group Profit/(Loss) Before Tax




Group Profit/(Loss) After Tax




Basic EPS





Free cash flow




Net debt2




Performed Ahead of Expectations in the Period
  • Steadily improving performance over time in revenue, EBITDA, profit and cash generation with results slightly ahead of management expectations
    • Constant currency revenue broadly flat year on year despite two months of pre-pandemic revenue in 2020
    • 45% increase in EBITDA to £128.2 million. Positive Underlying Operating Profit and Underlying PBT
    • Underlying Operating Profit increase of £54 million despite revenue being broadly flat demonstrating the impact of the £100 million cost savings outlined at the 2020 Full Year results
    • Positive free cash flow with 177% cash conversion
  • Continuing trend of improving sequential performance despite ongoing Covid-related restrictions
    • H1 2021 EBITDA £30million higher than delivered in H2 2020
  • Balance sheet remains robust with strong liquidity
    • £1.0bn in cash and undrawn committed facilities after repaying CCFF and short–term facilities as planned. No material refinancing required until 2023
    • Agreed an additional precautionary extension of covenant amendments out to and including June 2022


Well Positioned for Future Growth
  • Whilst our focus is on accelerating the recovery to pre-Covid levels of trading, we remain committed to the sustainable, profitable growth of the Group
    • We have undertaken a detailed Business Review and will share the outcome with investors at a Capital Markets Day in October
  • We continue to see significant opportunity in all our markets
    • Won new and expanded existing contracts in corporate shuttle in both North America and the UK, demonstrating the continuing long term attractions of this growing market
    • Made a small acquisition of an urban bus business in Granada, Andalusia, representing a further step in our strategy to consolidate the regional and urban bus market in Spain
    • ALSA has an active pipeline of both organic and inorganic opportunities worth over €400 million annualised revenue
    • North America has an active pipeline of bid opportunities in Transit and Shuttle worth over $150 million annualised revenue, including some sizeable paratransit contracts coming up for tender later this year
    • The UK has strong and active pipelines in both its NEAT and NETS businesses
  • Governments around the world are increasingly committed to public transport - promoting modal shift away from cars onto buses, driving passenger growth for years to come
    • In the UK, the National Bus Strategy provides £3 billion of funding and we are working in partnership with Travel for West Midlands (TfWM) on a number of projects to further boost bus usage
    • In the US, an infrastructure deal worth $1.2 trillion, including $7.5 billion of funding for school and transit buses, has presidential support and we have a number of exciting candidate projects
    • Spain will be one of the largest beneficiaries of the Next Generation EU fund worth €750 billion, a recovery package which includes funds for more sustainable transport for which we have a number of potential options
  • Whilst modal shift remains the single most important driver of reduced emissions and congestion, we remain focused on decarbonisation of our fleet:
    • Lead operator in Coventry, the first planned all-electric bus city in the UK
    • Working with TfWM to secure funding for around 200 hydrogen buses
    • In North America we are running a number of electric school bus pilots and now operate around 100 zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) in WeDriveU
    • In ALSA we are running around 20 ZEVs, with more vehicles arriving later this year.
    • Having conducted two trials for hydrogen fuel cell buses in Madrid and Oviedo, we will be the first company in Spain to operate hydrogen buses, when we take delivery of our first bus in the fourth quarter



The exact timing of the recovery remains uncertain as restrictions are lifted at varying pace across the countries in which we operate. However the start of H2 has seen a continuation of the improving trends we saw in H1, and we continue to project a robust improvement in the second half of the year as vaccination programmes enable a fuller return to mobility. Looking ahead, we see a positive outlook as our services play an increasingly important role in tackling climate change, assisting economic recovery, and improving social mobility, and we have good visibility around a number of potential growth opportunities driven by these trends.



The full release and supplementary data will be available on our website from 7:00am (London time) on 29 July 2021. The web address is www.nationalexpressgroup.com/investors/results


National Express Group PLC  
Chris Davies, Group Finance Director 0121 460 8655
Louise Richardson, Head of Investor Relations   07827 807766
Neil Bennett 0207 379 5151
James McFarlane 07584 142665


There will be a webcast presentation for investors and analysts at 9.00am on 29 July 2021. Details are available from Audrey Da Costa at Maitland.


  1. To supplement IFRS reporting, we also present our results (including EBITDA) on an underlying basis to show the performance of the business before separately disclosed items. These are detailed on page 14 and principally comprise intangible amortisation for acquired businesses. Given the unprecedented nature of the Covid-19 pandemic in this period, we have also excluded certain items arising as a direct consequence of the pandemic. 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 pages 19-20.
  2. 2020 net debt is re-presented for the transfer of £17.5 million out of net debt in respect of vehicle leases entered into in 2019 to fulfil contracts that have been deemed to be in scope of IFRIC 12. The effect of this re-presentation was to reduce 2019 closing net debt by £17.5 million, which therefore also reduces the H1 2020 closing net debt by the same amount compared with the previously reported figures.

Legal Entity Identifier: 213800A8IQEMY8PA5X34 Classification: 1.2 (with reference to DTR6 Annex 1R)

Forward looking statements and other important information
This document contains forward-looking statements with respect to the financial condition, results and business of National Express Group PLC. By their nature, forward-looking statements involve risk and uncertainty and there may be subsequent variations to estimates. National Express Group PLC's actual future results may differ materially from the results expressed or implied in these forward-looking statements.  Unless otherwise required by applicable law, regulation or accounting standard, National Express does not undertake to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise. Forward-looking statements can be made in writing but also may be made verbally by members of the management of the Group (including without limitation, during management presentations to financial analysts) in connection with this document.

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