March 1, 2012 / 7:41 AM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 1-Stagecoach boosted by British rail growth

* UK rail sales up 9.5 pct in 40 weeks to Feb 5

* Virgin Rail sales up 8.9 pct in the period

* UK bus sales up 3 pct, U.S. coaches revenue up 13.3 pct (Adds details)

LONDON, MARCH 1 (Reuters) - British transport group Stagecoach said recent trade had been good, driven by strong growth at its rail businesses, and that it was hopeful of winning more rail franchises in Britain.

“Overall current trading remains good and we believe the prospects for the group remain positive,” the company said in a statement on Thursday. “The overall profitability of the group has remained good.”

Scotland-based Stagecoach said Virgin Rail, a joint venture in which it owns a 49 percent stake, was “progressing its bid” for the new West Coast Trains rail franchise which was put up for tender by Britain’s Department for Transport last month.

Like-for-like revenue at Stagecoach’s UK rail business, which includes London commuter franchise South West Trains, grew 9.5 percent in the 40 weeks to February 5.

Virgin Rail Group achieved an 8.9 percent jump in like-for-like revenue in the same period.

Sales at Stagecoach’s British bus unit climbed 3 percent, while its North American coaches operation posted a 13.3 percent leap in the nine months to the end of January.

Rival British transport firm National Express Group on Wednesday said full-year profit rose on strong performance at its U.S. school bus and UK coach divisions, and said it was confident about growth in 2012.

Shares in the Scottish group, which have risen 8 percent in the last three months, closed at 268.4 pence on Wednesday, valuing the company at around 1.5 billion pounds ($2.40 billion).

$1 = 0.6260 British pounds Reporting by Rhys Jones; editing by Paul Sandle

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