French tipped to raise stakes with £400m bid for Go-Ahead

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The Independent Online

The French consortium stalking Go-Ahead is today expected to raise its offer to between 750p and 800p a share, valuing the bus and rail operator at up to £400m.

The French consortium stalking Go-Ahead is today expected to raise its offer to between 750p and 800p a share, valuing the bus and rail operator at up to £400m.

Sources close to C3D, a joint venture between Caisse des Depots-Developpement and Rhone Capital, said there was an 80 per cent chance it would table a higher offer before tonight's deadline for raising its bid. An improved offer could flush out a rival bid from the state-owned French railway SNCF.

Go-Ahead has already rejected C3D's opening bid of 650p as "unwelcome and inadequate" and last night it said that a 100p increase in the offer would also be insufficient. Chris Moyes, Go-Ahead's commercial director, said: "We could not recommend an offer which does not properly reflect the value of the business and 750p would be a very long way from that."

Go-Ahead owns the Thameslink and Thames Trains franchises and is bidding to take over the South Central franchise from Connex. It also has an extensive bus operation, including two of London's red bus companies.

The rail franchising director, Mike Grant, confirmed yesterday that he would announce the successful bidder for the South Central franchise before C3D's offer for Go-Ahead closes on 25 October.

SNCF operates the Thameslink franchise jointly with Go-Ahead and is thought likely to table a rival bid to protect its interests. Whether it will strike immediately or wait to see if Go-Ahead wins South Central or C3D's bid is blocked by the competition authorities is less clear.

The UK has asked Brussels for the right to vet the bid on the grounds that it would give C3D a monopoly on bus services in parts of London. C3D could overcome these objections by selling a bus company, probably its London United operation.

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