Even if a bus operator is the only operator providing bus routes in a town, it is not without competition

The Stagecoach takeover saga has been rumbling on for some time, but appears to be getting close to a conclusion. The offer for Stagecoach from DWS’s Inframobility UK Bidco has now been declared unconditional, with National Express effectively backing out.

It’s curious that the door was left open for this second bid by the involvement of the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA). When National Express announced its intention to acquire Stagecoach and merge the two companies, Stagecoach made plans to dispose of its express coach operations to ComfortDelGro, to avoid giving National Express more of a monopoly on express coach services and presumably to prevent interference from the CMA. In spite of this step, the CMA still got involved, put the entire deal on hold and allowed another bid to snatch Stagecoach away. So goes the cut-throat world of business.

It means that a merger between two pioneering UK companies has been prevented in favour of a takeover from abroad. That’s not necessarily negative – the new owners may do a fine job – but it does raise the question of whether this intervention was in the UK’s best interest.

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