SINGAPORE (Feb 13): Public transport operator SBS Transit saw its FY2019 earnings inch up 1.5% to $81.3 million from $80.1 million last year. 

Revenue for the year came in at $1.44 billion, some 4.5% higher than $1.38 billion in FY2018. This was spearheaded by a 4.4% jump in the group’s public transport services segment to $1.38 million from $1.33 million in the previous year. The increase came on the back of higher bus service fees and rail fares which were attributable to an increase in ridership and average fares due to the fare hike which came into effect from December 29, 2018. 

Revenue from the group’s other commercial services segment came in at $62.0 million, a 6.3% increase from $58.3 million a year ago. This was attributable mainly to higher advertising revenue. 

Notably, the group’s premises costs for the year fell 25.1% to $48.1 million, while repairs and maintenance costs increased 11.3% to $192.7 million. 

Other operating costs also saw a 29.5% spike to $101.6 million, while finance costs increased 25.3% to $4.2 million due primarily to the adoption of SFRS(I) 16, but offset by lower average interest rates. 

As a result, group operating profit increased 6.4% to $103.5 million from $97.3 million in FY2018. 

Earnings per share for the year came in at 26.07 cents. 

As at end-December, cash and cash equivalents stood at $31.4 million. 

SBS is proposing a tax-exempt one-tier final dividend of 5.90 cents per ordinary share, 17% lower than the 7.10 cents dividend back in FY2018. The dividend is expected to be paid out on May 12, although subject to shareholders’ approval at the group’s annual general meeting slated to be held on April 23. 

In its outlook statement, SBS says that the Covid-19 virus outbreak is anticipated to be a prolonged one, adding that both the virus and measures to fight it will result in economic slowdown and lower ridership. 

The group also flagged that its rail business, in particular, will continue to face rising cost from operations and maintenance.

“Repairs and maintenance costs are expected to increase with the ongoing North East Line and  Senkang-Punggol LRT fleet mid-life refurbishment, ageing bus and train fleets and continued investments in predictive maintenance capabilities to enhance service reliability,” says SBS. 

“Staff costs are expected to be higher following salary adjustments and increments to retain and attract staff,” it adds.

Shares in SBS Transit closed five cents higher, or 1.4% up, at $3.74 on Thursday before the release of results.