Nat Ex investor demands new Stagecoach debate

NATIONAL EXPRESS&rsquo; largest shareholder, the Spanish Cosmen family, is sounding out other investors at the ailing transport company for their appetite to restart takeover talks with Stagecoach.<br /><br />Merger talks between debt-laden National Express and rival Stagecoach fell apart last week, with the former saying it would raise money via a cash call instead. It is facing &pound;5m penalty interest payments on its near &pound;1bn of borrowings at the end of December, and did not think a deal could be done with Stagecoach in time.<br /><br />But the Cosmen family, which holds a 18.5 per cent stake, said National Express had not fully explored its options on raising the money, and is now in touch with other shareholders to see if they can gather support for a Stagecoach merger.<br /><br />National Express yesterday insisted its talks with its rival on a potential tie-up were over, and that it was &ldquo;fully committed to a fund raising&rdquo;. Details on the cash call are expected later this month.<br /><br />The Cosmens still support a rights issue, the family said yesterday, but wants to explore the best possible options for National Express.