Transport operator SBS Transit (SBST) posted a 23.3 per cent increase in earnings to $20.7 million for the first quarter ended March 31 as better margins from bus contracts continued to flow in.
Revenue crept up by 6.9 per cent to $350.8 million, slightly ahead of a 5.5 per cent rise in operating expenses to $324.5 million.
Earnings per share rose from 5.39 cents to 6.63 cents. Net asset value per share stood at $1.64, up from $1.60 at the end of last year. SBST's profit margin before interest, tax and depreciation improved to 14.8 per cent, up from 13.6 per cent in the previous corresponding quarter.
The ComfortDelGro-owned company yesterday attributed its results mainly to "higher fees earned with higher operated mileage from bus services and higher ridership and average fare from rail services".
Average daily ridership on the Downtown MRT Line grew by 10.4 per cent to 476,000 trips. Ridership on the more mature North East Line grew by 3.2 per cent to 603,000 trips. The SengkangPunggol LRT saw a 10.4 per cent rise in ridership to 141,000 trips.
Its non-transit businesses also did better, mainly because of higher advertising revenue.
SBST remained in a viable financial position. Group total assets increased by 4.9 per cent to $1.11 billion. Group total liabilities rose by 6.9 per cent to $603.5 million.
It had a net cash outflow of $26.6 million for the quarter, mainly from the repayment of borrowings, funding operating activities, the purchase of vehicles, premises and equipment and the repayment of lease liabilities, partially offset by the new loans raised.
As at March 31, the group had cash and equivalents of $6.1 million. After accounting for borrowings of $94.5 million, it had a net debt position of $88.4 million. Net gearing ratio stood at 17.3 per cent, up from 8.5 per cent at the end of last year. Gross gearing ratio was 18.5 per cent, up from 15 per cent.
Looking ahead, directors expect transit revenue to continue to grow, with full-year contribution from the Seletar and Bukit Merah government bus contracts.
They expect rail revenue to grow on the back of rising ridership, as well as from a 4.3 per cent fare rise that came into effect on Dec 29 last year.
But they said this will be offset by higher operating and maintenance costs as the North East MRT Line and Sengkang-Punggol LRT undergo "mid-life cycle" repairs.
Last week, sister company Vicom - a vehicle inspection outfit also owned by ComfortDelGro - reported a 4.7 per cent rise in first-quarter earnings to $7.5 million. This was on the back of a 4.1 per cent improvement in revenue to $25.5 million.