FirstGroup replaces CEO, could sell Greyhound bus business

LONDON (Reuters) - British transport company FirstGroup FGP.L replaced its chief executive after what its chairman called a disappointing year, and the company said it could sell its Greyhound bus business in the United States.

FirstGroup’s CEO had been under pressure after the company rejected two approaches from a private equity firm earlier this year, and since last year, it has been targeted by Canadian activist investor West Face Capital.

The bus and rail operator said its CEO Tim O’Toole would be replaced immediately by Wolfhart Hauser, who becomes executive chairman, and Matthew Gregory, who takes on a chief operating officer role in addition to his duties as chief finance officer.

Hauser denied that O’Toole had been sacked and said he had not received a request from any shareholder for the CEO to go.

“It was the right time after the results for him to make that decision and I agreed with him on that,” Hauser told Reuters on a call.

Hauser said that the annual results “fell short of our ambitions” as the company reported a 5 percent fall in adjusted pretax profit to 197 million pounds for the year to March 31, slightly behind a consensus forecast.

FirstGroup blamed the poor performance of Greyhound in the United States for the fall in profit, saying that it was facing intensifying competition from low cost airlines, which are adding capacity between secondary cities.

As such it said it had commission an external review of Greyhound which could result in a sale of the business.

Reporting by Sarah Young, Editing by Paul Sandle and Alistair Smout