Nat Express thrashes out deal's details

City A.M. Reporter
TRANSPORT group National Express was last night close to agreeing to a $1.3bn (&pound;1bn) takeover bid, although the level of due diligence has yet to be settled.<br /><br />The bus and rail operator last week received an improved offer of 500p a share from a consortium that includes Spanish shareholder the Cosmen family and CVC Capital Partners.<br /><br />&ldquo;National Express is minded to agree a deal, the condition is around the due diligence, what access it (the consortium) is going to get,&rdquo; one source said.<br /><br />The consortium said last week it had struck a side deal with National Express rival Stagecoach to sell its UK bus and rail operations if the deal goes ahead.<br /><br />National Express declined to comment on whether or not it was close to agreeing a takeover, but admitted it was in talks.<br /><br />&ldquo;The independent board confirms that it is discussing certain aspects of the final proposal with the consortium,&rdquo; it said in a statement.<br /><br />National Express said that there was still no certainty the approach would lead to an offer and that a further announcement would be made as appropriate.<br /><br />The company became a takeover target earlier this year after struggling to lower a near &pound;1bn debt mountain and announcing it would walk away from its flagship East Coast rail franchise due to mounting losses.<br /><br />It has said that shareholders would support a potential rights issue, which sources said would be around &pound;300m, if a takeover falls through.