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National Express’s Top Owner Elliott to Halve Rail Company Stake

National Express Group Plc’s No. 1 investor, Elliott Advisors, hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to sell half its stake in the U.K. rail and bus operator.

Elliott will dispose of 50.6 million shares, or 9.9 percent of the total, via a secondary placing, it said today in a statement. The New York hedge fund owns about 20 percent of National Express stock, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

National Express shares closed at 230 pence in London today, valuing the business at 1.18 billion pounds ($1.8 billion) and giving the stake Elliott is offloading a notional worth of 11.6 million pounds. The shares will be sold to institutional shareholders and the actual price remains to be set.

The planned sale “reflects Elliott’s desire to diversify its portfolio and invest in new opportunities,” the U.S. firm said in the statement, while adding that National Express remains one of its “most important investments.”

National Express came to a truce with Elliott almost two years ago, agreeing to appoint three independent non-executive directors to its board after the investor had demanded that management consider a takeover or breakup to boost earnings.

No further disposals will be made for at least 90 days after the initial placement of shares, Elliot said. National Express stock has advanced almost 13 percent this year.

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