National Express chief executive says the group can have an independent future – contrary to the view of rebel shareholder Elliott Advisors

National Express Group shareholders will assemble in London on May 10 for a showdown between the group’s board of directors and its largest shareholder, Elliott Advisors.

The group’s annual general meeting will hear opposing views about the best direction for the group to take. Elliott, who claim to be supported by the influential Cosmen family, will argue that the group is too small to remain an independent force in Europe’s increasingly competitive passenger transport market.

In a discussion document published on April 15, Elliott said that the group should be broken up or merged with a similar operation, like Stagecoach.

The National Express board, headed by chief executive Dean Finch, responded to the document: “The board disagrees with Elliott that the group does not have an independent future in its existing markets.

“As the fifth largest Europe-based bus and coach operator, National Express believes that its scale is a significant competitive advantage in a liberalising European market.”

It continued: “The board also believes that Elliott’s proposed strategic options are focused on the short term and ignore the group’s superior longer term value creation opportunities.”

In a subsequent statement the board welcomed the news that three leading corporate governance advisory groups have urged National Express shareholders to support the board at its AGM by voting against the motions tabled by Elliott Advisors. They have all recommended that their subscribers should vote against all of the Elliott nominees who are standing for election to the board.