25 June 2006

Soapbox Sunday - The Stagecoach approaches?

"A soapbox is a raised, improvised platform on which one stands to make an impromptu speech, often about a political subject. Alternately, the word may be used to describe the box that soap comes in." Wikipedia

This year has seen an increase in bus companies changing hands with Stagecoach in particular being involved in a few deals to buy out a few smaller companies and two major companies. Go Ahead and Arriva have also made a few purchases over the past year, Arriva mostly buying in Europe. First have been a bit quiet on the bus front but have taken on a lot more rail work One or two overseas groups are also taking more of an interest in bus operation in this country at the moment with Transdev taking Bournemouth being the most interesting.

In most of these cases the takeovers were either open secrets - or at least strong rumours well before the events. With the growth of the email groups news gets out almost instantly these days and it can be quite hard for companies to keep things quiet as just one careless manager or staff member letting something out in a conversation can be all over the internet within a few hours!

This last week has seen a major announcement though that seems to have caught everyone by surprise. Stagecoach has just sold its London buses operations to an Australian Bank:

Stagecoach yesterday sold its London bus operations for £263.6m to Australian bank Macquarie, telling shareholders it could generate higher revenues away from the capital's tightly regulated
franchises. The bus, coach and rail group said funds from the deal could be better used developing services in deregulated markets in the north of the England.

Stagecoach will look for further organic growth and bolt-on acquisitions for its remaining British bus business, where it has expanded in Merseyside, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Tayside over the past year, chief executive Brian Souter said.

and of Macquarie...

Like the Australian football team, Macquarie is nothing if not tenacious. It looks possible it will lose out on its bid for AB Ports much as it lost out last year on a bid for the London Stock Exchange, but it has jumped up the international league with recent deals. Macquarie is one of the banks involved in Eurotunnel and own Bristol and Birmingham airports. The bank has 8,000 staff in 24 countries and runs the gas pipelines in Wales and the west of England. Macquarie can trace its roots to the defunct Hill Samuel City investment bank. It became Macquarie in 1985.

Above copyright www.Guardian.co.uk

So far so good, but what does this have to do with Plymouth? Well, in the short term maybe not a lot, but Stagecoach is knocking on the door of Plymouth. It has a very sucessful operation based in Exeter and Torquay where it has really turned the business around over the past few years and is now the envy of many other parts of Devon and Cornwall and especially Plymouth. The company has shown just what can be achieved by working well with local authorities and has built up an impressive modern fleet of low floor double deckers on services which a few years ago were all run by minibuses.

With Stagecoach publically anouncing its looking for expansion of its bus operation, and having the spare cash to do it operators in Plymouth will be keeping a much closer eye on activities up the road. The Devon team have shown their Stagecoach bosses that if they are given new buses then they can use them to generate growth. I think its only fair to say that Stagecoach Devon probably find it easier to argue for new stock than the First Devon & Cornwall management. It does appear that things may be turning around for First D&C but years of problems are not going to be sorted overnight and having a much more sucessful operation on the doorstep, and Stagecoach not being afraid to go head to head with First Group elsewhere in the country can not make life any easier for them

Of course the easiest way into the Plymouth bus market is Plymouth Citybus. This is one of just a few survivors of what used to be many local authority owned bus companies. With the City Council under financial strain like any other council the sale of Plymouth Citybus must be an option at the back of councillors minds. First have made no secret that they would be interested. I cant imagine Stagecoach sitting back and letting that happen!

There is an excellent article on the Omnibuses blog about the history of Stagecoach which is well worth a read. I end with a quote from the Omnibus Blog from 24th June on the anouncment of the sale of Stagecoach London:

Another implication is that Stagecoach has signalled to the remaining independents and municipals that it is ready and waiting with its cheque book, pen poised. It wouldnĂ‚’t be too inaccurate to say that the sale proceeds are enough to buy outright just about all the remaining municipals, for example, or others. More on this again, next week, when we reveal our Top 40 Best Buys.

This will make interesting reading - Plymouth Citybus will certainly be there somewhere - my guess in the top ten?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have something interesting to say? Please share it here!

(Moderation is currently switched on so please allow a short while before your comment appears on the site. This is only to cut down on spam - not to cut out people who disagree with me!)