UK's FirstGroup says turnaround is on track

LONDON Thu Jan 23, 2014 5:03am EST

LONDON Jan 23 (Reuters) - British transport operator FirstGroup, which is facing pressure from an activist investor to sell off its U.S. division, defended its business on Thursday, saying that it was making progress in improving its returns and growth prospects.

U.S. hedge fund Sandell Asset Management, which is pressing for the company's breakup, has called for FirstGroup to provide more detail on how it would engineer a turnaround.

In a statement, FirstGroup said it aims to increase group revenue, excluding its UK rail business, at a faster rate, to improve margins at its First Student and UK Bus units to double digit levels, and to hit an overall post-tax return on capital employed of 10-12 percent over the medium term.

"I am confident we are on the right track to increase the resilience of the group and improve returns and growth prospects for the benefit of all our stakeholders," Chief Executive Tim O'Toole said.

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