CVC Consortium: No Offer for National Express

LONDON (Reuters) – A consortium led by Spain’s Cosmen family has decided against making a takeover offer for National Express (NEX.L) after spending a month poring over the British bus and train operator’s books.

National Express said on Friday , however, that the Cosmen family had decided to support a proposed equity fundraising.

Last month, Cosmen and private equity partner CVC Capital Partners approached National Express with a proposed 765 million pounds ($1.24 billion) offer worth 500 pence per share, an improvement on a previous 450 pence approach.

National Express said on Sept. 11 it had opened its books to the consortium following the improved offer and on Sept. 25 the two sides agreed to extend an offer deadline imposed by regulators to give Cosmen/CVC more time to inspect accounts.

The company became a takeover target earlier this year after struggling to lower a debt pile of almost 1 billion pounds and announcing it would walk away from its flagship East Coast rail franchise due to mounting losses.

National Express said on Friday that it now planned to turn to shareholders for help get the company back on track.

“The board believes that strengthening the group’s balance sheet through an equity fundraising is now the most appropriate course of action,” it said in a statement.

“The Cosmen family has now confirmed its intention to support the group’s plans to undertake an equity fundraising within certain parameters.”

National Express did not say what conditions the Cosmen family, its biggest shareholder with an 18.5 percent stake, had attached to its participation in any fundraising.

Rival transport operator Stagecoach (SGC.L), which had been eyeing National Express’s British rail operations as part of the Cosmen-led approach, said it was no longer in talks with the consortium. (Reporting Paul Hoskins; Editing by Dan Lalor) ($1 = 0.6157 pound)