Go-Ahead dismisses 'pathetic' £326m hostile offer from French predators

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The Independent Online

Go-Ahead, the embattled rail and bus operator facing a hostile £326m bid from the French group C3D, yesterday rejected the approach claiming it was opportunistic, inadequate and riddled with regulatory uncertainty.

Go-Ahead, the embattled rail and bus operator facing a hostile £326m bid from the French group C3D, yesterday rejected the approach claiming it was opportunistic, inadequate and riddled with regulatory uncertainty.

Issuing a combative defence document, Go-Ahead ruled out seeking a white knight and said it was confident of retaining its two existing rail franchises, Thames Trains and Thameslink, and planned to bid for a further four.

Meanwhile the Government's £180bn ten year transport plan held out huge opportunities for both its bus and rail operations.

Martin Ballinger, Go-Ahead's managing director, said of the 650p-a-share bid: "The offer is pathetically short of our current value let alone our strategic value and, therefore, there is nothing to talk to the French about."

The offer from C3D, a consortium of the state-controlled investment group Caisse des Depots et Developpement and Rhone Capital, is pitched at a 50 per cent premium to Go-Ahead's price the day before it made its first approach.

However, Go-Ahead said it was 30 per cent below the group's highest valuation over the last 12 months and 7 per cent below its closing price last night of 700p.

Go-Ahead shares have tumbled since the Ladbroke Grove disaster last October, caused when one of its Thames Trains went through a red signal and collided with a Great Western express.

Mr Ballinger said Go-Ahead was confident of retaining its two existing franchises, and was also well-placed to win the South Central commuter franchise from Connex. The C3D offer closes on 25 October.

Chris Moyes, commercial director, also claimed C3D's bid faced serious regulatory hurdles since it would give the French group 60 per cent of the bus market in south London and ownership of three of the capital's red bus companies.

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