First sells Cheshire bus operation to Stagecoach

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Transport giant FirstGroup has agreed to sell its bus operations in Birkenhead and Chester to Perth-based rival Stagecoach for £4.5 million.

The deal is the second in as many weeks between the two groups – last month Stagecoach said it would pay £12m for FirstGroup’s Wigan bus business, which has around 120 vehicles and 300 employees.

Giles Fearnley, managing director of Aberdeen-based FirstGroup’s UK bus arm, said the company was repositioning the division to focus on areas that offer the greatest potential for growth, and margins at its Birkenhead and Chester businesses, which employ around 290 people and run 110 buses, were lower than average.

He added: “They fit better with Stagecoach’s existing portfolio in the area and also allow us to realise efficiencies in support costs. The sale of these operations marks further progress in disposing of selected assets and businesses as we review the scope and scale of our portfolio.”