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Merger-bound Stagecoach, National Express on British watchdog radar


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Parked busses are seen at a Stagecoach depot in South Shields as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, South Shields, Britain, April 3, 2020. REUTERS/Lee Smith

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(Reuters) – Britain’s competition regulator on Wednesday issued an order preventing public transport group StageCoach and rival National Express from disposing of key UK assets as the watchdog reviews their merger.

The Competition and Markets Authority indicated that it seeks to “maintain the businesses in their current shape” as it starts its probe into the merger, Stagecoach said, adding that the order would delay a planned sale of parts of its inter-city coach businesses to ComfortDelGro.

StageCoach said that the companies believe the disposal to ComfortDelGro should allay any competition concerns that might arise from their overlapping coach operations.

National Express announced in December it would buy StageCoach in an all-share deal valuing the Perth-based firm at about 445 million pounds ($600.79 million).

Stagecoach said the merger is still expected to close around the end of 2022.

($1 = 0.7407 pounds)

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