East Anglia: NXEA owner targets US school bus market

Coach and train group National Express (NX) expanded its business in the United States yesterday with the acquisition of the country’s fifth largest school bus operator.

NX, the UK’s biggest coach operator which also currently runs the National Express East Anglia (NXEA) regional rail franchise and south Essex commuter route c2c, is paying 200million US dollars (�126m) for Petermann Partners, based in Ohio.

Petermann will increase National Express’s distinctive yellow bus fleet by a fifth, or 3,300 vehicles, while the deal will immediately boost its earnings.

NX said the deal represented a “targeted expansion”, in line with the group’s strategy following the recovery in its margins and its return to organic growth.

“Since its founding in 1999, Petermann has developed a strong track record of growth, driven by new contract wins and bolt-on acquisitions,” it said.

“Petermann’s strategy is characterised by a focus on safety, operational excellence, customer service and employee satisfaction and, with its high quality, well-invested fleet, it represents an excellent fit with the group’s current student transportation business in the United States and Canada, and will enhance the broader group.”

Dean Finch, NX group chief executive, added: “We are delighted to acquire such a high quality business in Petermann. Our recent improved performance has enabled us to take advantage of this opportunity.

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“It’s a great strategic fit for our existing school bus business, complementing our current operations, introducing us to new states and giving us a foothold in the paratransit market. This is an important step in delivering our strategy of growth in North America.”

NX will lose the East Anglia rail franchise next February, having failed to make the shortlist for the next contract, while the c2c franchise ends in 2013.