Ashurst and Freshfields advise on National Express rights issue

Ashurst corporate partner Steven Fox is advising National Express on the rights issue, which is designed to raise money for the transport company after talks to take it over fell apart in the summer.

A Freshfields team led by corporate partner Julian Makin is advising lead underwriters Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. The syndicate also features a raft of international banks including Barclays, RBS, BBVA, HSBC and BNP Paribas.

Shareholders will vote on whether to go ahead with the issuing of around 357 million shares at 105p a share when they meet on 27 November.

Major shareholder the Cosmen family has not backed the call. The Cosmen family is the largest shareholder in National Express, holding a 19 per cent stake.

That said, sources have said there is likely to be sufficient support among other investors to see the issue go through.

Meanwhile, an Ashurst team led by transport partner Lee McDonald and litigation partner Arundel McDougall is also advising National Express on its handover of the operation of the East Coast mainline franchise to the Department for Transport (DfT).

Eversheds is acting for Directly Operated Railways, the company set up by the DfT to run the service until the franchise is re-tendered in 2010 or 2011. The Eversheds team is led by transport partner Mark Brunton, with partners Anne Harris and Peter McCormack also involved in the deal.

The handover of the line, which will be on a temporary basis until a new operator is found, is due to take place at midnight on Friday 13 November.

The franchise has a troubled history, with previous operator GNER relinquishing the contract in 2007 after it failed to meet repayment costs on the £1.3bn contract.