Mobico, the owner of National Express, flashes its hazard light to get investors off.

Mobico’s shares, which own National Express, fell to their lowest ever price on Monday due to a profit warning, a sudden departure of its finance chief, and reassurances that debt levels would remain high for some time.

City analysts stated that Mobico’s update “provides many reasons for concern”, as the stock fell another 6p or 9.8 percent to 54p. This is the lowest price since 1992, when the company was known as National Express Group and joined the London Stock Exchange.

Mobico, best known for its National Express name in the UK, also has a school bus division in the United States that it is selling, along with Alsa, an operator of Spanish trains and buses, and , a German rail division.

In 2023 the group recorded a loss before tax of £98.3million, which was a significant improvement over the loss of £225.3million it had in the year prior. The group’s revenues increased by 12 percent to £3.15billion, up from £2.81billion.

The profitability was affected by several factors including a shortage of train drivers across the industry in Germany, difficulties recruiting enough drivers to operate its American school bus fleet, strikes by UK drivers of buses, a “significant” increase in wage costs, and less Covid subsidies.

Alsa is the only business that will grow its operating profit in 2023. The adjusted operating profit for the entire group fell 15 percent to £168.6 millions, which was slightly less than what investors expected.

James Stamp has had a challenging 16 months since he assumed the position of finance chief at Mobico in December 2022. He announced on Monday, much to the surprise of those in the industry, that he will step down from his position as finance chief at Mobico by June. Helen Cowing, who has been appointed on an interim basis, will replace him. She will not be on the board.

Ignacio Garat is the chief executive of Mobico. He admitted that the company’s performance in the last year was “below the expectations that we set”. However, he added that the progress made by the business “encouraged him”.

Garat believes that with the inflation and shortages of drivers both decreasing, operating profits in 2024 will be between £185 and £205 millions, which is still comfortably below what City analysts previously predicted.

The group has reported a stable start to the year. First-quarter revenues at Alsa as well as the UK bus business have increased, despite the strike by drivers in the previous year.

The German rail revenue dropped between January-March compared to the same period in 2023 due to the higher penalties caused by a driver shortage. Meanwhile, the North American school buses division saw its income drop because of a greater-than-usual amount of snow days, and an early spring break.

Mobico has a debt of £987million and reducing it relies at least in part on the sale of its US school bus business. Alex Paterson, an analyst in the transport industry at Peel Hunt, said that a sale of a school bus business would be “poor value”.

Mobico’s gearing has been delayed due to the combination of higher debt levels and lower profits.