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Today’s Transport Winners And Losers: Flybe Group PLC, FirstGroup plc And Air Partner plc

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Shares in transport operator FirstGroup (LSE: FGP) sank by 5% today after it released a profit warning. The company has found trading challenging in its third quarter, with First Bus revenues being negatively affected by lower-than-forecast high street footfall and exceptionally wet weather and flooding in some markets. Meanwhile, First Student saw costs rise due to a shortage of drivers and a tightening of the US employment market.

As a result of these issues, FirstGroup now expects operating profit in the current financial year to be below previous guidance. But it remains confident that its transformation plans will improve the company’s long-term performance and drive sustainable cash generation moving forward.

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With FirstGroup trading on a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 8 and being forecast to increase dividends by 4.8 times next year, its shares appear to offer excellent value for money. While further problems could lie ahead, for long-term investors it could prove to be an excellent buy.

Mixed picture

Also reporting today was Flybe (LSE: FLYB), with the short-haul airline operator releasing a rather mixed third quarter update. On the one hand, it has been able to increase seat capacity by 10.1% versus the third quarter of the previous year and recorded a rise in passenger volumes and passenger revenues of 2.1% and 3.6%, respectively, this time. Furthermore, Flybe also reduced cost per seat by 4.7% (including fuel) and this should improve its margins moving forward.

However, with demand for air travel coming under pressure following the terrorist incidents during the period, Flybe’s load factor fell from 74.3% in the third quarter of the previous year to 68.9% this year. Passenger revenue on a per seat basis also fell by 6.1% and while progress is being made on Flybe’s business offering, its performance during the quarter was still rather mixed. As such, its shares are down by over 3% today.

Looking ahead, Flybe is expected to return to profitability in the current financial year and with its shares having a forward P/E ratio of 8, they seem to be an attractive purchase at the present time.

Looking good

Meanwhile, global aviation services group Air Partner (LSE: AIR) today increased its guidance for the full year. Its release stated that trading momentum in the second half of the year remained encouraging with a stronger-than-anticipated end to the period. Therefore, it expects underlying pre-tax profit to be not less than £4.2m for financial year 2016, which compares favourably to the £2.6m recorded in financial year 2015.

Looking ahead, Air Partner seems to be well-positioned to deliver further growth. It has successfully implemented its Customer First initiative and the acquisitions of Cabot Aviation and Baines Simmons also provide it with a more impressive long-term growth profile. With Air Partner trading on a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of just 0.3, it appears to offer strong growth at a very reasonable price.

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Peter Stephens has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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