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Cost control measures ‘bearing fruit’ for National Express

Transport group ups profits amid boardroom strategy battle

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Cost control measures are “bearing fruit” for National Express, the group’s chief executive Dean Finch claimed on Thursday as he reported a notable rise in profits in the first quarter.

Pre-tax profits across the transport business were up 30 percent in the first three months of 2011, apparently adding weight to Finch’s claims of having the right strategy to deliver value to his shareholders.

The transport group’s largest investor, the hedge fund Elliott, has been pushing for a change in focus for the business and for three new non-executive directors to be appointed to the board.

Chairman John Devaney last month accused Elliott of attempting to circumvent best corporate governance practice as a seemingly bitter row rumbled on at the train and bus operator.

But speaking to reporters on Thursday, Finch struck a more conciliatory tone and said the views of the hedge fund, which owns 18 percent of all National Express shares, need to be properly considered.

“No one is picking up arms to fight each other but Elliott are our largest shareholders with 18 percent of the company's stock and deserve a voice - they have put their money where their mouth is and we are listening to them,” he said.

Reflecting on the group’s performance in the first quarter of the year, the CEO said: “Our strategy is sound and will deliver significant shareholder value over the long term.”

“Our continued cost control initiatives and increased investment programme are both bearing fruit.”

The overall outlook for the financial year was described as “encouraging”, with risk reduction plans being implemented and group revenues in Q1 up five percent on the same period in 2010.


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