FirstGroup shareholders approve £3.3bn US sale

By Mark McSherry

Aberdeen-based bus and rail giant FirstGroup plc said on Thursday the resolution to approve the £3.3 billion sale of its North American businesses First Student and First Transit to Stockholm-based investment firm EQT Infrastructure was passed by the company’s shareholders.

FirstGroup’s biggest shareholder Coast Capital LLC had urged fellow shareholders “to vote against the proposed disposal of the company’s crown jewel assets, First Student and First Transit, unless the terms of the proposal are rapidly and substantively improved.”

Investors holding 61.3% of shares voted in favour of the deal — but 38.7% voted against.

FirstGroup chairman David Martin said: “We welcome the support of shareholders in approving the sale of First Student and First Transit.

“Through this transaction, FirstGroup will return value to shareholders, address its long-standing liabilities and make a substantial contribution to its pension schemes.

“The vital role of public transport in the UK has never been clearer, and FirstGroup will be in prime position to deliver on its goals with a well-capitalised balance sheet and an operating model that will support an attractive dividend for shareholders.

“I and the whole board take very seriously our responsibility to understand the different views and perspectives of investors, and recognise that a number of shareholders did not vote in favour of today’s resolution.

“As FirstGroup enters a new and exciting phase in its development, I look forward to continuing an open and constructive dialogue with all shareholders as we look to the future.”

FirstGroup added: “Votes were cast for a total of 1,035,045,981 ordinary shares … representing 84.7% of the total number of votes capable of being cast at the General Meeting.

“In total, 51.9% of the company’s voting issued share capital voted in favour of the resolution …

“The board expects that, subject to the satisfaction and/or waiver (where applicable) of the other conditions precedent to the sale, completion will occur in the second half of the 2021 calendar year.

“It is envisaged that, shortly following completion, full details of a proposed return of value to FirstGroup shareholders will be made available and, if necessary, a general meeting of the company will be convened to seek shareholder approval to effect the proposed return of value.”