Failed Stagecoach-First bus merger 'may hit jobs'

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A failed merger between two bus companies may be lead to services being withdrawn and jobs being put at risk in north Devon, First Bus has said.

Stagecoach wanted to buy First Devon's business in the area, but the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) referred the deal to the Competition Commission.

Stagecoach said it then "reluctantly decided not to proceed".

First said managers were consulting with trade unions and staff to "review the implications of this decision".

Potential bidders

The OFT referred the proposed merger to the Competition Commission because of what it said could be a "particularly significant" potential impact.

It said it was concerned the merger would reduce competition on a number of routes where the firms competed around Barnstaple.

Stagecoach "reluctantly" withdrew from the merger, saying it could not justify spending further money and management time on what had "already been a lengthy process".

First's UK bus managing director, Giles Fearnley, said the company was "extremely disappointed by this decision, which may lead to services being withdrawn and puts jobs at risk".

He said: "We are now considering our options and will consult fully with affected employees and stakeholders about the implications of the OFT's announcement."

The disposal of the north Devon business is part of a £100m disposal programme of bus businesses which was announced in March.

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