CVC Offers To Buy National Express

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s National Express (NEX.L) has received an all-cash takeover proposal from Spanish major shareholder the Cosmen family and private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, sending its shares up 9 percent.

CVC said in a Friday statement it had made the indicative approach, which follows a rejected offer for the bus and train operator from rival FirstGroup (FGP.L) late last month.

The private equity group said it was working alongside the Cosmens, an 18.7 percent National Express shareholder who gained a stake in the operator following the sale of their Spanish bus group Alsa in 2005.

Jorge Cosmen, head of Alsa, is deputy chairman of National Express.

The company’s shares were up 9 percent to 353.25 pence by 1145 GMT, valuing the company at 540 million pounds ($892.7 million).

National Express has become a takeover target following heavy losses in its UK rail division, a 1 billion pound debt-pile and the departure of its chief executive.

Analysts expect there to be more interest before the saga is resolved — perhaps from rival operator Stagecoach (SGC.L).

“The key question is how other players in the industry react. CVC’s looks a serious approach, but it may be willing to divest non-Spanish assets,” said Douglas McNeill, analyst at Astaire stockbrokers.

(Reporting by John Bowker, Editing by Lorraine Turner and Rupert Winchester)