All aboard for Go-Ahead's float

THE DRIVE of Britain's privatised bus companies to the stock market continued yesterday, when Go- Ahead, based in Gateshead, announced plans to float this summer.

The group, formed after a management buyout of the Northern General Transport Company from the National Bus Company in 1987, will be valued at more than pounds 40m. The management, who paid just pounds 3m, own more than 90 per cent of the company, which will be floated via a placing. Hill Samuel, which backed the buyout, is sponsoring the issue.

Go-Ahead will be the fourth buyout from the National Bus Company to float in the past 18 months. Stagecoach, Britain's biggest private bus operator, was first to the market last April, followed by National Express, the coach operator, and Badgerline.

Since the buyout, the group has been restructured and costs have been cut. The money raised will be used to cut debts of pounds 12m, but the company said it would not be raising cash for acquisitions.

Go-Ahead bought the Oxford Bus Company at the beginning of this month, having acquired Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company in November.

Oxford, with 210 buses and turnover of pounds 15.5m, and Brighton, with 210 vehicles and pounds 13m turover, brought Go-Ahead's total fleet to more than 1,000 with annual revenues in excess of pounds 75m.

A spokesman said the group was interested in other transport developments, such as urban rail networks.

The original buyout team, led by Martin Ballinger, chief executive, is still on board.