London bus company goes to MTH for pounds 20m

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Merseyside Transport Holdings has paid pounds 20.5m for one of the 10 London Buses companies being privatised, writes Russell Hotten.

The purchase of London Northern Bus marks the seventh London operation to be sold into private hands, and secures MTH's position as Britain's fifth-largest bus company.

The sale takes the proceeds raised from the privatisation of the London Buses divisions over the pounds 150m mark, Steven Norris, Minister for Transport in London, said yesterday.

The 10 London bus companies had a turnover of pounds 440m.

The remaining three companies are expected to be sold by the end of the year.

Over the next two years most of the remaining 21 local authority-owned bus operations will also be privatised. Smaller operations, owned by management teams that bought them out of local authority control, are also likely to be bought by the bigger operators.

The MTH deal marks the first acquisition the Liverpool- based company has made outside the North-west.

The acquisition will increase its turnover to pounds 90m, and give MTH a 1,620 bus fleet. London Northern Bus, which has a turnover of pounds 27.5m, employs more than 1,000 people and operates 320 buses in Barnet, Camden and South Hertfordshire.

The bus and coach operators Stagecoach and Go-Ahead have also bought a London franchise each.