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Stagecoach profit up on UK and U.S. bus growth

LONDON (Reuters) - Transport operator Stagecoach posted an 8 percent rise in full-year profit, driven by strong growth at its British regional bus business and its U.S. division.

The bus and rail operator on Wednesday reported a pretax profit of 218.9 million pounds ($337.21 million) for the year to the end of April on revenues 8.2 percent higher at 2.8 billion pounds.

The Scotland-based company said operating profit at its UK regional bus business rose 62 percent during the year, though profit fell at its London bus arm.

Profit at its North American bus business, which includes yellow school bus services and Megabus, roughly doubled to 49.9 million pounds, it said.

Losses widened at Stagecoach's rail business. However, Virgin Rail, which Stagecoach runs with Richard Branson's Virgin Group, delivered a profit, albeit roughly a third down on the prior year.

The company raised the full-year dividend by 10 percent to 8.6 pence per share.

"The public transport market has long-term fundamental strengths and a positive outlook," said Chief Executive Martin Griffiths, who added that trading since the year-end had been in line with its expectations.

Shares in Stagecoach, which have fallen 3.3 percent in the last three months, closed at 299.5 pence on Tuesday, valuing the group at around 1.7 billion pounds.

($1 = 0.6492 British pounds)

(Reporting by Rhys Jones, Editing by Brenda Goh)

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