National Express targets Stagecoach takeover

National Express is mulling a bid for rival Stagecoach that could join up two of the UK’s biggest transport operators. 

© Dave Thompson/PA Wire Stagecoach – Dave Thompson/PA Wire

The FTSE 250 coach operator has been discussing an audacious takeover of Perth-based Stagecoach, sources told Bloomberg. 

Stagecoach is one of Britain’s largest bus operators, running 8,500 buses and employing 25,000 people. Its co-founders, siblings Sir Brian Souter and Dame Ann Gloag, still hold a combined 25.1pc stake in the company according to its latest annual report. 

The company is currently valued at around £370m, having seen its share price roughly cut in half since the onset of the pandemic. 

National Express, which is headquartered in Birmingham, is worth about £1.4bn, with its shares also changing hands at around half their pre-pandemic price. It is the UK’s biggest longhaul coach operator. National Express also runs the US’s second-biggest school bus operation.

Stagecoach exited the UK rail market in 2019 after it was disqualified from bidding for three franchises, including the West Coast line that it had shared with Virgin Trains. 

Bloomberg reported that a merger between the companies could cut costs through route-sharing and the consolidation of administration. 

If a takeover bid is tabled, it would mark a reversal of fortunes for the two companies. In 2009, National Express rejected a £1.7bn merger approach made by Stagecoach.

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