Stagecoach has given undertakings to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on its recent acquisition of First’s Wigan operations. They stipulate the assets of the business are maintained and preserved, including facilities; none of the assets is disposed of; and no interest in the assets is created or disposed of.
Colin Brown, the Finance Director of Stagecoach UK Bus will provide a statement to the OFT on behalf of Stagecoach confirming compliance with these undertakings every 10 working days from January 14.
At all times, Stagecoach has agreed to actively keep the OFT informed of any material developments relating to the business, which includes, but is not limited to details of key staff who leave or join the business and all substantial contracts won or lost by the business.
However, far from being aggrieved, Steven Stewart, Director of Communications at Stagecoach Group said the matter was procedural. He told CBW: “The OFT has also issued an announcement inviting comments on the acquisition. These are both standard developments on a transaction of this type. We have submitted our notification to the OFT and are engaged with them on that and any queries they may have. We do not believe there are any significant competition issues and we are hopeful that the acquisition will be cleared.”
With more than a month having passed since the deal went through, asked by CBW why it had taken so long to investigate, an OFT spokesman replied: “Merging parties don’t have to notify us prior to a transaction but it can be done voluntarily – and the OFT can carry it out before or after completion. We have four months from the point it reaches the public domain or when the transaction completes to reach a decision.”
The company name was changed from Greater Manchester Buses East Limited to Greater Manchester Buses West Limited on December 3. Stagecoach has complied with the undertakings given by it and accepted by the OFT on January 3.