UK-based transport group Stagecoach has ditched its support for the National Express takeover offer in favour of a $780m (£594.9m) bid from Inframobility UK Bidco.

The rail and bus operator said that it no longer wants to recommend rival National Express’ bid of $583m (£445m), and instead accepted Inframobility’s offer of 105p a share.

Stagecoach had earlier accepted the offer from UK-based intercity and inter-regional coach operator National Express, which would have created a company worth almost £1.9bn.

Inframobility’s offer is a 37.2% premium to Stagecoach’s closing price on 8 March this year.

It is a 54.3% premium to the closing price of 68.05p for each Stagecoach share on 20 September 2021, prior to the announcement of National Express’ bid.

Inframobility is indirectly wholly owned by Pan-European Infrastructure III, which is an infrastructure fund managed by DWS Infrastructure.

Elaborating its rationale for picking the latest offer, Stagecoach said that its business aligns with the investment criteria of DWS Infrastructure.

The firm also said that the move will offer leadership continuity with the current CEO, finance director and UK managing director expected to be retained. 

DWS Infrastructure head Hamish Mackenzie said: “As a long-term investor in essential services with a strong track record in the UK and European transport sectors, DWS Infrastructure will back Stagecoach to rapidly capitalise on the growth opportunities presented by increased public and private investment in UK bus and coach.”

Claimed to be the UK’s largest bus and coach operator, Stagecoach offers bus, coach, and tram services. It has operations in England, Scotland and Wales.

The company runs a major tram network in Sheffield, as well as major city bus operations in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull, Sheffield, Oxford and Cambridge. It also offers inter-urban services that connect smaller locations.

Stagecoach CEO Martin Griffiths said: “We believe it will open a new and exciting chapter for Stagecoach, backed by a team who share our vision for a more sustainable future.”

In 2017, Stagecoach and Virgin collaborated with France’s SNCF to jointly bid for the West Coast Partnership rail franchise.