The row over the future of National Express turned nasty today when the beleaguered group’s biggest shareholder - Spain’s Cosmen family - warned of “serious concerns” about the board’s lack of clear strategy.
"The company is facing short-term issues that need to be addressed but we have serious concerns about the absence of a well-defined strategy to address the company’s broader and longer-term issues,” the family said. “We are concerned that there has not been a sufficiently full and thorough assessment of all the available options to address the company’s short and longer-term challenges.”
The statement came after National Express walked away from an approach from rival Stagecoach yesterday - “an option that could have addressed the fundamental financial and strategic issues facing the company,” according to the Cosmens – in favour of a rights issue.
The Cosmens want the board to look more closely at alternative options, such as a resetting of their loan covenants, rather than necessarily plumping for an equity raising exercise while the company is in considerable financial difficulties and has not yet found a chief executive to replace Richard Bowker, who resigned in July.
The National Express board countered this afternoon with a statement maintaining that the board “has carefully explored a range of strategic options” and believes it is in the best interests of shareholders to proceed with a rights issue.
It also is only a matter of weeks since the collapse of a takeover bid from the Cosmen’s themselves, prompted by National Express’s severe financial problems and the UK’s government reclaiming the East Coast rail franchise in July.
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