First­group urged to break up busi­ness

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Oliver Gill

FIRST­GROUP, the South Western Rail­way op­er­a­tor, is fac­ing de­mands to fast-track the break-up of its global trans­port empire.

Lead­ing in­vestors have called on Wolfhart Hauser, the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man, to take ac­tion.

First­group has been with­out a chief ex­ec­u­tive for nearly six months. Af­ter re­buff­ing two ap­proaches from pri­vate eq­uity gi­ant Apollo ear­lier this year, boss Tim O’toole quit af­ter an­nounc­ing full-year losses of £327m.

Best known in Bri­tain for op­er­at­ing rail fran­chises and bus net­works, the com­pany’s prized as­sets are its North Amer­i­can busi­nesses First Stu­dent and First Tran­sit. The for­mer is the largest school bus op­er­a­tor in the US.

First­group is also grap­pling with its dis­as­trous in­vest­ment in the Grey- hound bus net­work.

A top-10 share­holder told The Sun­day Tele­graph: “We would like to see a strat­egy that re­alises value from the var­i­ous parts of the busi­ness and the more quickly this can be re­alised the more value this gives.”

First­group, which owns a 70pc stake in South Western, will un­veil half-year re­sults on Nov 13.

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