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MARKET REPORT: Bus firms pick up speed on £218m Covid lifeline


MARKET REPORT: Bus firms pick up speed on Government’s £218m pledge to keep funding the sector indefinitely

Bus companies picked up speed following the Government’s pledge to keep funding the sector indefinitely.

The Department for Transport will hand out £218.4million in Covid-19 aid over the next eight weeks to help keep regional bus services – those outside London – running in England.

And it will provide up to £27.3million a week after that ‘until a time when the funding is no longer needed’.

The Department for Transport will hand out £218.4m in Covid-19 aid over the next eight weeks to help keep regional bus services – those outside London – running in England

Bus companies were crippled financially by the need to keep services running for key workers during lockdown, even though they were bringing in hardly any money by doing so.

And they are still in a bind now – because even though there are rising numbers of people using public transport, they must also stay socially distanced from one another. 

The Government reckons buses are now running around 80 per cent of normal services.

But First Group, which yesterday praised the support, said it is now operating around 90 per cent of services, with just 40 per cent of the usual number of customers.

Stock Watch – Yu Group 

Utilities minnow Yu Group saw its shares surge 20.7 per cent, or 15p, to 87.5p on a double helping of good news.

AIM-listed Yu Group, which supplies energy and water to small companies, bought the division of Bristol Energy that focuses on business customers from Bristol City Council.

Separately, it also said the London Stock Exchange has decided to waive a £300,000 fine for accounting errors back in 2018, due to the ‘current economic uncertainty’ hitting the company.  

Investors cheered the Government’s latest funding promise – which was announced alongside plans to publish a ‘National Bus Strategy’ about how it will support the sector in future.

First Group shares rose 5.7 per cent, or 2.2p, to 41p, while Go-Ahead Group climbed 10.2 per cent, or 60.5p, to 652.5p and Stagecoach by 11.4 per cent, or 5.26p, to 51.4p.

Liberum analysts were also encouraged by the news, which was released on Saturday but only digested by stock markets for the first time yesterday.

Analysts said: ‘We see this move as a clear indication of the Government’s intention to do whatever it takes to support bus operators through the pandemic.’

Go-Ahead and First Group helped the FTSE 250 index start the week on the right foot – but their gains were upstaged by a roaring 17.6 per cent rally in Cineworld shares. 

The cinema group, which owns the Regal chain in the US, has seen its stock see-saw between huge sell-offs as traders worry about the effect the pandemic will have on attendance numbers and racing advances whenever the threat appears to be cooling off.

Shares rose 6.15p to 41.05p as UK investors celebrated a ruling in the US on Friday that ended a series of competition rules known as the ‘Paramount Decrees’ – and means movie studios could now buy cinemas.

Elsewhere on the mid-cap index, where all of the action seemed to be taking place yesterday, traders piled into shipping firm Clarkson after it effectively reversed a decision on its dividend.

The group, which saw revenues and profits rise between January and June despite the disruption to global trade, had deferred paying a 53p-per-share divi for 2019.

Now it has chosen to pay it as a special dividend, alongside a 25p interim payout. Shares rose 12.1 per cent, or 255p, to 2355p as a result.

And outsourcing group Capita rose by a more modest 1.3 per cent, or 0.5p, to 37.5p after it extended contracts with Transport for London from 2021 to 2026 to manage the congestion charge, low emission zone, ultra low emission zone and other services.

These gains all helped keep the FTSE 250 in the black – and it started the week higher by 0.6 per cent, or 102.01 points, to 17724.94.

The FTSE 100 rose 0.3 per cent, or 18.41 points, to 6050.59, and was nudged higher by gains in BP (up 2.8 per cent, or 8.15p, to 295.4p) and Shell (up 1.3 per cent, or 14.6p, to 1131.4p) as they tracked a rise in the oil price, which rose 1 per cent to $44.85 a barrel.

Over on AIM, shares in management software group Ideagen jumped 9.4 per cent, or 16.5p, to 192.5p bought Sheffield-based rival Qualsys for £15.6million.



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