27 Feb 2012

FirstGroup tries to flog London bus operations

Stagecoach has walked away from talks with arch-rival FirstGroup about taking over London bus assets that have been on the auction block for months. It is understood they could not agree on a price.
The depots thought to be up for sale are Dagenham, Northumberland Park and Leigh in east London, with Stagecoach thought to be particularly interested in Dagenham. That would mesh with Stagecoach’s other bus operations in the area, which include Barking, Bow, Leyton, Romford, West Ham and Catford.

How London is carved up
Souter’s group currently has a 15 per cent share of the London market, while FirstGroup is the fifth-biggest player with 13 per cent. The market leaders are Go-Ahead with 21 per cent, and Arriva with 20 per cent. One industry source said: “I would have thought Stagecoach would have been the front runner for the assets FirstGroup doesn’t want... Stagecoach has the balance sheet strength to do it.” By contrast, it is thought Go-Ahead is constrained in bidding for the FirstGroup assets by hefty debts, while Arriva is now owned by Deutsche Bahn and is seen as being mainly focused on its trains business.

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