Ashurst has advised longstanding client National Express on a £350m bond issue as part of the rail, bus and coach operator’s return to stability after a difficult 2009.
The bond issue, launched to pay back the company’s £242m of bank debt, comes following a £360m cash call made late last year. The bond, issued last week, has an annual coupon of 6.25 per cent and is understood to be oversubscribed.
International finance partner Anna Delgado led the Ashurst team advising on the bond issue, while corporate partner Steven Fox led on last November’s rights issue.
National Express experienced a tumultuous end to 2009, with the company losing its lucrative East Coast Main Line franchise after it failed to make its annual payments to the Government.
Fox said that the ultimate success of the rights issue, achieved despite opposition from the group’s largest shareholder the Cosmen family, allowed for the quick arrangement of the subsequent bond.
“The equity piece alone was not the solution,” he explained. “What we managed to do was publish a debt prospectus quickly and test appetite after the rights issue closed.
“The management was on a strong footing [after the rights issue]. They were in a better position to negotiate debt. The company’s now a lot more stable.”
The bond issue, the first of the new decade to be issued in sterling, comes on the back of the appointment of former Tube Lines chief Dean Finch as chief executive. The company has had no one in the role since Richard Bowker left last summer.