Manchester bus sale hit by new doubts

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The Independent Online
THE PRIVATISATION of Manchester's municipal bus services descended into chaos yesterday when doubts emerged about the status of bids for the two local authority companies running buses in the city.

Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority announced late last year that British Bus, an unquoted operator, had won a sealed bid contest for the north Manchester company. It awarded the southern half of the city to a management-employee buyout team.

But yesterday the PTA announced after a meeting that it was considering a revised bid for Greater Manchester Buses North from another employee buyout team.

It asked British Bus to resubmit a bid. It also said that it was seeking confirmation that the bid for the southern company was as agreed following reports that the buyout team was having difficulties funding the deal.

Meanwhile, Stagecoach, Britain's biggest quoted bus company, re-entered the bidding for Greater Manchester Buses South following the reports.

Stagecoach was beaten by the buyout team in the first round but has now tendered a revised, higher bid understood to be about pounds 20m. The employee buyout is understood to have bid about pounds 15m.

The local Passenger Transport Authority is keen to have the privatisation completed by 31 March as it would be allowed to keep all of the proceeds of the deal. After that date it has to give half the proceeds to central government, a rule introduced to encourage local authorities to press on with privatisation.

The PTA is to meet again on Tuesday to consider the situation. GMBS has annual revenue of about pounds 50m and operates 700 vehicles. GMBN is larger, with annual turnover of about pounds 60m.