Ashurst acts on National Express’s £350m bond issue

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.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer acted for the syndicate of banks arranging the bond.

Corporate partner Mark Trapnell and tax partner David Haworth led the team advising a bank group consisting of Barclays Capital, Commerzbank and RBS.

The magic circle firm also advised the underwriters on November’s rights issue, with a team lead by corporate partner Julian Makin acting for the international bank group.