Brighton bus and train services look likely to change hands

Posted On 08 Aug 2022 at 12:01 am

A company that runs bus and train services in Brighton and Hove and other parts of the country looks likely to change hands.

The board of the Go-Ahead Group said that it had agreed to accept an improved offer worth £669 million from an international consortium.

The consortium previously offered £647 million to buy Go-Ahead, which owns Brighton and Hove Buses, after which the shares rose 24 per cent.

Go-Ahead also owns the Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express train operating companies.

The improved offer will give Go-Ahead shareholders £15.50 for each share. The total includes a £1 special dividend.

The offer represented a premium on the £14.96 price of the shares when the stock market closed on Wednesday (3 August). On Friday, the shares closed at £15.34.

The revised offer is also worth 50p a share more than the initial offer when the special dividend was worth 50p of the total.

The bid consortium is made up of Australian company Kinetic Holding and Spanish company Globalvia Inversiones.

Globalvia is owned by three shareholders, one of which is the Universities Superannuation Scheme which manages funds of about £90 billion and provides pensions for academics.

Go-Ahead ran into trouble last September when the Department for Transport (DfT) said that it would terminate the Southeastern train franchise in October after the discovery of financial misconduct.

Southeastern had not declared more than £25 million that should have been repaid to the government since 2014. Go-Ahead’s chief financial officer Elodie Brian resigned. The shares fell from £10.25 to £7.69.

In December, with a fine from the DfT pending, the company said that its auditors needed more time and the annual accounts would be late. The shares fell from £7.32 to £6.

With the financial and accounting uncertainty, trading in Go-Ahead shares was suspended.

The company published its annual results in February – they had been due out at the start of January. Revenues were down 13 per cent to £899 million. Profits fell 18 per cent to £42 million.

Go-Ahead said that a review had found “serious errors had been made” since 2006, with an expected cost to the company of more than £80 million.

By early the March the price of Go-Ahead shares had dropped to £5.40.

By mid-March the DfT said that it would fine Go-Ahead £23.5 million, since when the share price has continued to climb to about £15.

The consortium is not the only potential bidder looking at British public transport businesses.

Interest is understood to have been helped by low valuations, government support since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the prospect of passenger numbers continuing a post-pandemic recovery.

But fuel and pay costs are rising across the sector, with a number of train operators currently embroiled in strikes.

A revamp is planned for the bus garage in Conway Street in Hove

Go-Ahead has forecast improved profits at its regional bus operations which include Brighton and Oxford.

And Brighton and Hove Buses is investing in a revamp of its Conway Street site, disposing of a modest scarp of land used for parking to help fund the work.

The old parking site will form part of the site for tower blocks of flats being built in Ellen Street.

The changes in Conway Street are expected to mean a new depot on the western end of the site and, in years to come, the eastern garage becoming housing.

  1. Woodstock99 Reply

    Not that it will change the shite service, rail privatisation at its finest

  2. Malcolm. Marshall Reply

    The share hold will make the most so no change there then

  3. Les Coomber Reply

    Yet again foreign investors.It’s a joke.

  4. Raphael Hill Reply

    National government legislation is needed to bring these services in-house

  5. Dinah Reply

    We should be nationalising public transport – not maximising profit for shareholder. Greater Manchester has managed to get hold of their buses- Thanks to Andy Burnham – so in effect they can mould the bus services to entice people out of their cars with a view to tackling the climate crisis and cost of living. Andy Burnham for Prime minister- if only.

  6. Peter Challis Reply

    I’d like to see the council to takes back control and runs bus services in the same way TfL does.

    I dislike monopolies such as Go Ahead, or their successor, running all the trains and most of the bus services in the city – I prefer a competitive market but having companies tendering for services is a second best.

    Must be time for the community bus service tender held by Big Lemon to come up for review? Last figures I saw showed the council subsidising £3 for every passenger journey.

    • mart Burt Reply

      Peter Challis
      Brighton Council only ever ran their own buses on routes in Brighton shared with Brighton, Hove and district and Southdown motor services. Nationalisation brought Southdown and Brighton and Hove together who ran under the National Bus Company banner and ‘Southdown’ was the taken name until deregulation in 1986 where they separated and became private companies again.
      Brighton corporation was sold by the council to it’s management and employee’s at around the same time until they were (wrongly in my opinion) sold to the Go-ahead group.
      TfL is funded by the TAX PAYER !!!.
      TfL have something called Quality Contracts that go out to tender to ‘PRIVATE’ Bus companies who of course make a profit, but don’t forget that’s tax payers money !!!.
      These contracts are given out for 5-7 years and CAN NOT be altered.

      Brighton and Hove are a commercial operator who operate routes they have registered under their Operators licence and receive no funding from the tax payer, therefore any profits made is purely ‘earned’ and not fleeced from the Tax payer like TfL, who indecently are Millions in debt, so not well run and if this was anything other than a Government run scheme would have gone under years ago.

    • mart Burt Reply

      Peter Challis
      As a second point, BHCC can’t run a simple rubbish/recycling service so I hate to think what sort of bus service they would run.

      • Vera Reply

        I think you’ll find the rubbish and recycling services is fast from simple. Last I read it’s one of the most complex and varied in the whole country.

        • mart Burt Reply

          It is simple. Dustcart/Recycling crews drive to streets empty said rubbish/recycling into lorry and move onto the next house until street is completed, then move onto the next street.
          Explain why that isn’t simple ?

  7. Thom Reply

    “Universities Superannuation Scheme which manages funds of about £90 million”

    Missing a few zeroes. The fund is £90bn. That’s why they can offer £647 million.

    • Frank le Duc Reply

      Thanks Thom. Well spotted. That’s now corrected.

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