National Express valued at up to 90m pounds

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S biggest coach operator, National Express, which was sold off by the Government four years ago for pounds 10m, is to be valued at between pounds 50m and pounds 90m when it is floated on the stock market in the next two months.

The flotation could make multi- millionaires of two businessmen who subsequently bought National Express with the backing of City institutions for pounds 11.5m last year, after the original management buyout team ran into trouble.

A pathfinder prospectus is due in the next month. National Express is expected to make its stock market debut before Christmas.

The flotation, which is being handled by Morgan Grenfell, the merchant bankers, and Smith New Court, the brokers, will take the form of a placing, although up to 25 per cent of the shares on offer will be clawed back if interest from private investors is strong.

National Express carries 12 million passengers a year and accounts for 75 per cent of all scheduled express coach services. The company was privatised in 1988 through a management buyout.

Last year it changed ownership again after two businessmen, Ray McEnhill, now chief executive, and Adam Mills, now finance director, bought into it with the backing of City institutions.

Mr McEnhill and Mr Mills control about 20 per cent of National Express. It has not yet been decided whether they will sell part of their shareholdings in the offer.

National Express operates coach services to more than 1,000 destinations throughout Britain. It provides coach services to 270 Continental destinations through its membership of Eurolines, and operates the Speedlink service between central London and Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

The business employs 1,150 staff directly and last year made operating profits of pounds 5.1m on a turnover of pounds 124.6m.

It has not yet been decided how much new money the offer will raise or what proportion of their shareholdings existing investors will sell.