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Tycoon demands change

FirstGroup dismisses Tchenguiz attack on strategy

Greyhound for sale (pic: FirstGroup)

Robert Tchenguiz, the largest individual shareholder in transport company FirstGroup today urged the board to sell all of its operations in the United States.

He also asked for more clarity on its plans as it prepares to sell its the iconic bus service Greyhound.

The Iran-born property baron, who holds a 4.7% interest in the Aberdeen-based business, said he would demand a shareholder meeting as soon as “practically” possible and urged FirstGroup’s new chairman David Martin to conduct a strategic review.

In a statement, FirstGroup said it is “intent on realising value for all shareholders and is focused on actively managing the entire portfolio by all appropriate means. 

“The board believes there is significant value to be unlocked across the group’s portfolio of leading public transportation businesses, and there are limited synergies between the divisions, particularly between the UK and North America.

“Realising greater value from the group is the clear priority and this is best achieved through a rationalisation of the current portfolio. The group has taken a number of important steps in relation to this strategy, as outlined in the half-yearly results announcement.”

Mr Martin, giving his view on the group in his first chairman’s statement since being appointed on 15 August, noted that: “We will continue to actively evaluate all options across our entire portfolio to ensure we remain focused on the most appropriate and deliverable means to realise shareholder value.”

Matthew Gregory, chief executive, added that “First Student and First Transit are valuable assets and well positioned in markets with profitable growth.

“The board has been consistent and clear that the objective is to realise value and therefore were a credible and deliverable offer to be received for these or any other business in the portfolio then, of course, the board would give that serious consideration.

“We also note the comment made by Mr Tchenguiz about an announcement in November 2018 regarding the pension deficit. This is an incorrect assertion and no such announcement was made.

“We also note the comment by Mr Tchenguiz regarding the potential to requisition a further general meeting. Whilst this is the prerogative of shareholders, the board believes it would be in the best interests of all stakeholders for us to get on with the portfolio rationalisation and realise value for shareholders without further distraction or delay.”

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