First Group makes move for National Express

FirstGroup, the Aberdeen-based bus and rail group, has made a secret bid approach to National Express, its embattled rival, in a move that could transform Britain’s transport industry.

Martin Gilbert, First’s chairman, made the offer in a letter sent to the home of John Devaney, his opposite number at National Express, last week. It arrived a day after the breakdown of talks between National Express and the Government aimed at resolving a long-running, multimillion-pound dispute over services on the East Coast Main Line.

A combination of the two companies would create a public transport powerhouse, running large parts of the UK bus and rail network and a sizeable chunk of America’s yellow school bus services. The companies would have a combined turnover of about £9 billion and a stock market value well in excess of £2 billion.

National Express, which has its headquarters in Birmingham, is expected to reject the approach. It has a trading statement on Wednesday, but may issue a formal rebuff before then. Both companies declined to comment last night.

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