Decline and write-down of a coach empire

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The Independent Online

FTSE 100 giant 3i has written down its investment in Shearings, the Wigan-based tour operator it bought for £100m in 2005, near the height of the market.

The private equity group took the hit on the 110-year-old Shearings, which organises coach trips to Blackpool and holidays in Rome, after failing to find new investors for the struggling business.

3i bought the travel company from Bridgepoint Capital and merged it with rival Wallace Arnold. The enlarged company owns more than 50 hotels in the UK and a fleet of about 250 coaches.

Sources close to Shearings said finances have started to improve over the past few months with sales reaching about £195m last year.

3i chief executive Simon Borrows, appointed last May, is looking to cut costs and diversify into areas such as infrastructure. 3i declined to comment.