National Express Considers Capital Call

LONDON (Reuters) – Shareholders in the National Express (NEX.L) were gathered this week to find out whether they want a 350 million pounds rights issue or prefer to pursue a takeover proposal, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

The board of the troubled rail and bus operator has met 15 of its institutional investors to gauge their support for an equity raising to help pay down its 977 million pounds of debt.

Investors are expected to inform the board’s advisers of their preferred option in the next few days, the FT said, citing people close to the situation.

The Cosmen family, which owns 18.6 percent of National Express, last month made an all-cash proposal for National Express in conjunction with private equity group CVC.

Rival Stagecoach (SGC.L) then stepped into the fray by saying it was in talks with the Cosmen consortium about taking parts of National Express if a bid was successful, while also considering a bid of its own.

The bidders have until Sept. 11 to make an offer for the troubled rail and bus operator.

National Express, which runs bus operations in Spain and North America, has become a takeover candidate after amassing a debt pile of close to 1 billion pounds ($1.70 billion), giving up its flagship UK rail franchise and announcing the departure of its chief executive.

National Express was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Editing by Richard Chang)