Ashurst set to steer National Express through takeover

A raft of City firms is ­lining up to advise on the proposed takeover of transport company National Express.

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Steven Fox

Ashurst is sole adviser to National Express and corporate partner Steven Fox is understood to be ­assisting alongside transport partner Lee McDonald.

The Ashurst team had a key role assisting National Express on the exit of its special purpose vehicle NXEC Trains from the East Coast mainline rail ­franchise (, 1 July) after the company decided it no longer wanted to subsidise the route it had been running since 2007.

A number of entities have announced their interest publicly in taking over all or part of National Express, including Spain’s Cosmen family, private equity house CVC Capital Partners and Scottish transport group Stagecoach.

The Cosmen family is the largest single stakeholder in National Express with an 18.5 per cent interest. In the past the family has turned to ­Linklaters on UK deals.

The Cosmen family is understood to have teamed up with private equity house CVC for the potential deal. The latter generally turns to Clifford Chance for advice, but also has relationships with Kirkland & Ellis, SJ Berwin and White & Case.

Stagecoach, which is advised by Herbert Smith, claimed it was in exclusive discussions with the Cosmen and CVC consortium, and is also thought to be considering going it alone.

A source said: “National Express is not looking for buyers, but these guys came out of the woodwork.

“At the end of the day it boils down to the shareholders. The board will be keen to ensure they don’t sell too cheaply, but it’s a well-known secret that if it doesn’t ­happen National Express will ask shareholders for more money.”

The value of the deal is expected to vary in ­accordance with whether National Express retains its other rail franchises ­National Express East Anglia and c2c, which Transport Secretary Lord Adonis may remove.