Birmingham-based National Express is facing pressure to put itself up for sale in a move that could lead to a tie-up with rival Stagecoach, according to reports.
Elliott Management, an American hedge fund that owns 16 per cent of the bus, rail and coach operator, informed the National Express board of its views two weeks ago but was told there were no immediate plans for a tie-up.
As well as Stagecoach, other potential buyers could include French state-backed transport group SNCF.
Under new chief executive Dean Finch, National Express has turned around its fortunes since being forced to return its loss-making East Coast rail franchise to the Government in 2009. At the same time it had to fend off opportunistic bids from several rivals, including Stagecoach and FirstGroup.
It has seen its market value improve to £1.3 billion after a period in which it has restructured its bus operations and secured a two-year extension on its C2C rail franchise covering the Southend and Tilbury commuter routes.
The Spanish Cosmen family - the company’s biggest shareholder with 17 per cent - attempted to break up the National Express business two years ago but is now said to be supportive of the current strategy.