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Three cheers for the bus owner

Stephen Beard Feb 9, 2007


SCOTT JAGOW: An American company called Laidlaw owns almost of a third of the school buses in this country. It also owns Greyhound. Today, Laidlaw agreed to be bought out by a British company. Stephen Beard reports from London.

STEPHEN BEARD: First Group, the U.K.’s biggest bus and rail operator, is buying Laidlaw for about $4 billion.

First Group already owns First Student, the second-biggest private school bus operator in the U.S., so there could be some regulatory issues.

Investors on this side of the pond like the deal. First Group’s shares jumped 5 percent this morning.

The feeling is that with the pound at an historic high against the dollar, First Group is getting Laidlaw on the cheap.

But there could be union trouble. Robert Wright is Transport Correspondent for the Financial Times.

ROBERT WRIGHT: The privatized bus and rail operators in the U.K. don’t get on particularly well with the trade unions because, frankly, the trade unions prefer the previous arrangement where these things were run by the public sector.

In the U.S. the Teamsters have already fired a warning shot. Earlier this month the head of the union said: “We are concerned that First Group’s troubling labor and service record could negatively impact Laidlaw’s reputation and profitability.”

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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