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Concern and confusion over National Express

Reports in the weekend press suggested that the Cosmen family, the largest single investors in National Express, were so disturbed by the developments at the company that the chairman Jorge Cosmen was in fact looking to resign. The family has today issued a statement suggesting that no resignation is imminent although it is well-known that the family would rather the company reopened negotiations with Stagecoach regarding a possible merger.

The situation has been further complicated by the fact that National Express's fourth largest shareholder, Aegon, last week sold the vast majority of its 3.5% stake without citing any reason for the sale. A number of issues are now coming into play with regards to National Express which include a £1 billion debt pile, the ending of talks with Stagecoach, difficult trading and a possible £5 million interest penalty if the company has not paid down some of its debt by Christmas.

There is no doubt that the clock is ticking on National Express and despite a number of parties showing initial interest in a possible acquisition or merger with the company, nothing has been formalised. The longer the situation drags on the more desperate the National Express management will become and the less encouragement investors are likely to show for a large fundraising.

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