The Spain-based Cosmen family has partnered with private equity group CVC to launch a combined bid for UK transport group National Express. The family already owns 18.5% of the company's shares and is looking to increase this in a full takeover.
National Express, which has debts of £1.2 billion, disclosed the takeover proposal yesterday after its initial investor, FirstGroup, walked away from the deal. It is thought the takeover could put the company's value at over £500 million.
The Cosmen family initially became involved with National Express in 2005 when National Express purchased the Cosmen family coach business, Alsa, for £149 million in cash and a 10% stake in National Express. Since then the family has increased its shares in the company and Jorge Cosmen (pictured) has become deputy chairman of National Express, while remaining chairman of Alsa.
The Cosmen family has been involved in transport since 1728 but Alsa wasn't founded until 1923. When Jorge's father Pepe Cosmen took control of the business it grew significantly; during the 1960s he expanded operations to other European countries such as Switzerland and Portugal and the 1980s saw the family venture into Asia. Alsa is still one of the biggest national bus operators in China and the family retains control of this enterprise.
Pepe, 81, is no longer directly involved in the business; however his eight children are all involved in some form with the family business empire that now includes hotel holdings, car dealerships and property and agriculture ventures alongside the transport interests.
National Express recorded revenues of £2.7 billion in 2008 but the company has been struggling under the weight of its debts after making cash acquisitions of both Alsa and another Spanish coach operator Continental Auto.