SBS Transit reports 32% rise in full-year earnings to $68m on back of higher ridership

The Sengkang-Punggol LRT saw a 37.4 per cent rise in ridership to 144,000 trips a day in the second half of 2022. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Listed land transport operator SBS Transit (SBST) posted a 31.7 per cent increase in full-year earnings for the year ended Dec 31, 2022, to $68 million.

Majority-owned by global transport giant ComfortDelGro, SBST said its public transport businesses contributed largely to its 15.6 per cent growth in revenue to $1.52 billion. Profit margin improved to 4.5 per cent, from 3.9 per cent previously.

Rail ridership and bus mileage rose as more people returned to work after most Covid-19 restrictions were lifted from April 2022. In the second half of the year, average daily ridership for the North East Line grew by 47.3 per cent to 527,000 trips, while that for the Sengkang-Punggol LRT rose by 37.4 per cent to 144,000. Average ridership for the Downtown Line grew by 63.2 per cent to 404,000 trips a day.

Total operating profit was also boosted by the absence of a one-off loss of $16 million on the disposal of 241 buses recorded in the second half of 2021, although this was partially offset by higher fuel and electricity expenses and higher staff costs.

For the full year, salaries rose 17.6 per cent to $735.9 million, while fuel and energy costs soared 74.4 per cent to $259.3 million. In total, operating expenses rose 14.2 per cent to $1.44 billion.

Revenue from other commercial services rose by 10.6 per cent to $50.3 million on the back of higher advertising revenue and higher rental income. The operating profit from this non-transit segment rose by 29.1 per cent to $29.2 million. Operating profit for its transit operations rose by 63.8 per cent to $50.8 million.

On the whole, SBST posted net earnings per share for the year of 21.81 cents, up from 16.56 cents in 2021. Net asset value per share stood at $2.07, versus $1.93 previously. Cashflow remained strong, with cash and equivalents shooting up 69.2 per cent to $345.3 million.

Mr Jeffrey Sim, SBST’s new chief executive, who took over from Mr Cheng Siak Kian on Jan 1, said: “As Singapore moves closer to pre-pandemic normalcy, we expect demand for our services to grow, but we are mindful of the increased cost pressures from manpower and electricity.”

Directors have declared a final dividend of 5.45 cents per share. Together with an interim dividend of 5.45 cents, the total dividend for 2022 works out to 10.9 cents per share, translating to a payout ratio of 50 per cent.

They expect revenue from public transport operations in 2023 to be fuelled by a continued recovery in ridership and a fare increase effective from Dec 26, 2022. The Public Transport Council had approved a 2.9 per cent rise in bus and train fares, which is four to five cents per trip for adults who pay by card.

The directors said revenue from bus operations, however, will see a hit from the full-year impact of the revised lower service fees for the five negotiated bus packages which took effect from Sept 1, 2022.

SBST said it thus maintains “a cautious outlook”.

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