Transport giant Stagecoach has accepted an improved offer for the business which will save Perth jobs.
In December the Stagecoach board backed an all-share offer from National Express – which would have seen Perth head office jobs move to Birmingham.
But an improved offer has now been tabled by investor DWS Infrastructure.
Its offer of 105p a share values Stagecoach at £595 million – a higher price than the National Express bid, which valued the Perth business at around £437m.
Stagecoach said the DWS bid offers greater certainty for investors and employees.
Overall headcount in frontline operational roles expected to remain the same, the firm said.
It would also retain its existing headquarters functions in Perth, London and Stockport.
The new deal will also provide continuity at the top, with senior bosses set to remain in post.
A ‘new and exciting’ chapter for Stagecoach
Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “The proposed offer presents a major opportunity to maximise the significant growth potential ahead.
“We believe it will open a new and exciting chapter for Stagecoach, backed by a team who share our vision for a more sustainable future.”
The DWS offer marks a 37% premium to Stagecoach’s closing share price of 76.55p on Tuesday.
It also significantly tops the National Express offer, which was worth just over 69.34p a share.
The offer from National Express would have given Stagecoach’s shareholders a 25% stake in the enlarged £1.9 billion business.
A statement from National Express said: “A further announcement will be made in due course.”
DWS already has a number of long-term infrastructure investments in the UK.
Those include Yorkshire Water owner Kelda and Peel Ports, as well as in other European transport groups, including Belgian public bus operator Hansea.
Hamish Mackenzie is head of infrastructure at DWS.
He said it would back Stagecoach to “rapidly capitalise on the growth opportunities” presented by increased public and private investment.
New bid protects Perth jobs
The new bid could also save Perth jobs, which were at risk under the offer from National Express.
Under its plans a six-month review of head office staff would have followed the completion of the deal. It was expected operations would be run from Birmingham.
That would have ended more than 40 years of Stagecoach, founded by Sir Brian Souter and his sister Ann Gloag, in Perth.
Stagecoach is going ahead with plans to open a new contact centre at its Dunkeld Road base.
The National Express and Stagecoach tie-up – which was agreed in December – is being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
The CMA served a so-called initial enforcement order in January stopping the firms from combining operations or selling any UK businesses while it looks into the deal.
A ‘huge boost’ to Perth
Local politicians are pleased Perth jobs could be saved through the new offer.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser said retaining Perth jobs would be “great news” for the city.
He said: “If the latest plan is agreed I’m sure it will be greeted with great relief by Perth-based Stagecoach staff and local residents.”
And Liz Smith MSP, who also represents the Mid Scotland and Fife region, said the proposal would provide a “huge boost” to Perth.
She said it would be welcome news after OVO Energy announced plans to close its Perth office.
Ms Smith said: “Perth has suffered a series of economic blows in recent years with the likes of Beales and Debenhams department stores closing, then we had the bad news from OVO.
“It is very heartening to hear that there could be brighter times ahead for the city.”
Perth and Kinross Council leader Murray Lyle said it was a boost in “challenging economic times”.
He said: “I’m heartened that it appears the company headquarters will remain in Perth.
“In these challenging economic times we can be rest assured that jobs will remain safe and there is a commitment to a sustainable future for the company.
“We aim to improve and develop the local public transport infrastructure in the coming years.
“I look forward to positive discussions with Stagecoach about how we can work together to deliver this.”