UK's National Express posts jump in half-year profit as summer travel revives

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London

(Reuters) -British transport firm National Express Group on Thursday reported a surge in its half-year profit on the back of rebound in summer travel demand from a slump during the coronavirus-led lockdowns last year.

London-listed shares in the school bus and coach operator jumped 8.5% to 194.2 pence in early trading.

From people wary of using public transport over fear of contracting COVID-19 in the last two years, to rising fuel prices prompting travellers to use buses and trains, National Express expects demand to improve.

"The two particular pressing issues that we have in society right now are the cost of living and also the climate crisis," Ignacio Garat, group chief executive, told Reuters.

"We are (a) part of the solution for both."

The company expects short-term pressures in North America from staff shortages that have been exacerbated by wage inflation rates that are highest in the region.

The company said it sees some margin pressure until all contracts are renewed and driver vacancies are filled in the run-up to schools reopening next month.

National Express' earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the six months ended June 30, rose 54.3% to 197.8 million pounds ($240.92 million), on revenue of 1.3 billion pounds, up 34%.

Earlier this year, National Express' attempt to buy Stagecoach, Britain's biggest bus and coach operator, hit a setback after a European fund trumped its 445 million pound bid with a higher proposal.

($1 = 0.8210 pounds)

(Reporting by Muhammed Husain and Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; editing by Neha Arora)