FirstGroup will post its first annual figures under new chief executive Matthew Gregory next week and they are likely to be pivotal for the Scottish transport giant.
The Aberdeen-based company is already under pressure from its biggest shareholder, Coast Capital, which is demanding that it gets rid of its chairman and five other board members “in order to return the business to peak performance”.
Coast, which has recently upped its stake in the firm to 9.7%, has accused bosses of mismanagement and lined up “highly experienced, inspired, and motivated” replacements for the people it wants to oust.
Coast says industry peers have “gone from strength to strength” but FirstGroup’s shares have slumped by more than 75% since 2010.
Last year, the company revealed it had run up pre-tax losses of £326.9 million during the 12 months to March 31 2018.
That result was described by former CEO Sir Moir Lockhead at the time as “horrendous” and came after profits of £152.6m a year earlier.
The losses and a disappointing outlook for a flat trading performance in 2018-19 sent shares plummeting nearly 20% and wiped more than £260m off the company’s market value.
FirstGroup announced the exit of Tim O’Toole from the managerial hotseat the same day, then waited until November before unveiling Mr Gregory – previously chief financial officer – as its new CEO.
Mr Gregory got his tenure off to a decent start by reporting a strong underlying first-half trading performance.
Results for the six months to September 30 showed underlying pre-tax profits and revenue up by 37.7% to £42 million and 19.2% to £3.3 billion respectively, compared with a year ago.
Statutory figures were less impressive, however, with pre-tax losses widening to £4.6m, from £1.9m previously.
First half trading was “encouraging” but market conditions remained challenging, the company said as it stuck to its “broadly stable” full-year outlook.