Murray and Souter join forces to buy TransBus

A CONSORTIUM of Scottish investors, led by investment bank Noble Grossart and leading Scottish businessmen David Murray and Brian Souter, yesterday bought the TransBus bus body and chassis business from the administrator for £90 million.

The dramatic swoop was hailed as safeguarding up to 1,400 jobs at the company, the lion’s share of which are at the main Falkirk plant.

Although the new owners said there would be a review of the businesses, the likelihood of what administrator Deloitte called a "significant" amount of jobs being preserved includes about 800 in the Scottish plants at Falkirk and Larbert, 285 in Guildford and 200 in Wigan.

The consortium, which is backed by Bank of Scotland, is not buying TransBus’s Belfast plant, where 90 workers are likely to lose their jobs as Deloitte said yesterday it would run down the business over the next month.

It is understood it is the first direct business collaboration between Murray and Souter, although the former’s metals business has supplied aluminium to TransBus vehicles.

Noble Grossart and Murray will own about half of TransBus, with Souter and Gloag speaking for somewhere comfortably over 40 per cent. A spokesman for Souter, stressed it was an investment and he would not be devoting time to sorting out the TransBus business, preferring to remain focused on the Perth-based bus and train operator.

Deloitte sold the Plaxton coachmaking business of TransBus separately to a management buy-out a week ago and continues to look for buyers of other businesses of TransBus’s parent company in administration, Mayflower.

Murray, as well as being owner of Rangers football club, has significant metals, mining and property interests, while Souter is the founder and chief executive of Stagecoach . A spokesman for the consortium said: "We are a group of Scottish investors and are delighted to be part of this acquisition and to have been able to move promptly and decisively to secure the future of this world-class manufacturing company.

"Our ability to pull together such a high-profile team in such a short space of time reinforces are long-held belief that global companies can develop from a Scottish base."

Bank of Scotland has provided lending facilities to the consortium, and is understood to have a previous banking relationship with both Murray International Holdings and Souter’s Stagecoach group.

However, in this instance Souter and his sister, Ann Gloag, have invested in a personal capacity, with no Stagecoach involvement.

TransBus is one of about half a dozen bus suppliers Stagecoach uses, and it is understood Souter will have no part in decisions by the Stagecoach board about bus procurement from TransBus to avoid any conflict of interest.

One insider said: "It was Brian [Souter] who dreamt this [rescue] up. But he realised he needed other interested parties."

Deloitte administrator John Reid said he was "delighted" the deal allowed the business to continue to operate in safe hands.