ComfortDelgro – BT

ComfortDelGro’s full-year profit falls 10% to $200m

The land transport firm says operating profit slipped 17% to $278m

HIGHER operating expenses put the brakes on ComfortDelGro’s net profit for the full year ended Dec 31, 2008, causing it to fall 10.3 per cent to $200.1 million, even as revenue grew 3.6 per cent to $3.13 billion.

The land transport giant said operating profit slipped 17.3 per cent to $278 million due mainly to the higher cost of fuel in the first three quarters of the year. For the full year, fuel and electricity costs jumped 31.8 per cent to $285.4 million.

Together with pricier fuel, higher payment for cashless transactions on increased turnover and a rise in taxi driver benefits pushed total operating expenses up 6.2 per cent to $2.85 billion. Earnings per share fell to 9.59 cents from 10.73 cents.

A final one-tier tax-exempt dividend of 2.4 cents per share has been proposed. In addition to the normal interim one-tier tax-exempt dividend of 2.6 cents paid earlier, the total dividend for 2008 would be five cents per share if the final dividend is approved.

ComfortDelGro said the operating profit of its overseas businesses as a proportion of total group operating profit rose to 47.3 per cent in 2008 from 45.8 per cent the year before.

Turnover for its bus business slipped 0.4 per cent to $1.5 billion because of the translation effect of the weaker British pound and Australian dollar.

Still, the UK operations accounted for over 71 per cent of total overseas bus turnover, while Australia made up 23 per cent. China’s share was 6 per cent.

In Singapore, listed unit SBS Transit’s (SBST) net profit for the full year ended Dec 31, 2008 fell 18.9 per cent to $40.58 million, hit by higher fuel and electricity costs, as well as lower interest income on investments. But SBST’s revenue grew 8.9 per cent to $729.6 million due mainly to higher bus and rail fare revenue, along with higher rental income.

ComfortDelGro’s taxi business recorded a 2.5 per cent hike in turnover to $945.3 million. In Singapore, turnover from taxis rose 10.3 per cent to $614.7 million on an increase in fleet size and cashless transactions.

But turnover from its overseas taxi operations fell 9.4 per cent to $330.6 million, mainly due to a 19 per cent decline in UK turnover to $209.3 million from the weaker pound and a drop in demand from corporate accounts. This was partially offset by increases in China and Vietnam.

The rail business chalked up a 15.7 per cent increase in turnover to $101.5 million on higher ridership for the North-east MRT Line and the Punggol and Sengkang LRTs. This is the first time turnover has crossed the $100 million mark.

Listed unit Vicom saw net profit for the full year ended Dec 31, 2008 rise 17 per cent to $15.8 million, thanks to improved volumes from its core businesses of vehicle inspection, and testing and inspection services.

The vehicle inspection unit of ComfortDelGro said total revenue rose 14.1 per cent to $73.8 million on higher revenue, with the significant increase in the testing and inspection services coming from the construction sector, marine and offshore, and oil and gas.

Looking ahead, ComfortDelGro managing director and group CEO Kua Hong Pak said 2009 will be ‘unprecedented and very challenging’. ‘Our focus is on how business trends are developing so as to better position ourselves.’

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