Cosmens and CVC team up for NatExp bid

NATIONAL Express&rsquo; biggest shareholder, Spain&rsquo;s Cosmen family, is understood to have linked up with private equity firm CVC to table an offer for National Express, in a deal which is thought to value the train and bus firm at &pound;500m.<br /><br />The family, which has an 18.5 per cent holding in the firm, wants to acquire the entire group and hand its huge &pound;1.2bn debt pile to its own lenders.<br /><br />It is understood that National Express thinks the firm is worth significantly more than the Cosmen family&rsquo;s offer and is holding out for a bid which values the firm at around 400p a share or &pound;620m.<br /><br />The Cosmen family sold its Spanish bus and coach operations to National Express in 2005 for &pound;460m. If its current offer is accepted it would get this business back at a greatly reduced price.<br /><br />National Express first announced it has been approached by a mystery third party on Wednesday evening &ndash; just hours after rival FirstGroup said it had abandoned its own plans for a buyout.<br /><br />FirstGroup chief executive Moir Lockhead said it would be &ldquo;inappropriate&rdquo; to make a bid for the firm given the uncertainty over its future as a national train operator.<br /><br />National Express fell into dificulties after the Department of Transport stripped it of the right to run the key East Coast Mainline service.<br /><br />The firm walked away from the service after it failed to renegotiate its franchise with the government, which has threatened to take away its East Anglia business as well.