But, National Express’s newly appointed chairman, John Devaney, and his chief executive, Richard Bowker, believe they can go it alone and have firmly rebuffed First Group. They are hoping, instead, to launch a £400 million rights issue.
This is not the first time the two companies have been linked as merger partners: there was talk three years ago of doing a £3 billion, nil-premium merger.
This time, however, FirstGroup made its opportunistic all-share merger proposal to National Express, after talks broke down between the British government and National Express over a bail-out of its London-to-Edinburgh East Coast Mainline franchise.
“No bail-outs in rail” is the government’s stance on the matter. No surprise there, then, when the coffers over at Treasury are empty.