Exclusive: Trainline Banks On New Deal
The owner of Britain's biggest train ticket agent is trying to avoid being derailed by Virgin's loss of the west coast mainline franchise to FirstGroup, its bitter rival.
I have learned that Exponent Private Equity is to begin negotiations with banks about a new financing package for Thetrainline.com, the site it took control of in 2006.
People close to the situation say that Exponent is seeking to replace a credit facility which expires next year and wants to put in place a longer-term capital structure for the company. Banks are likely to be appointed within weeks.
It is unclear how much revenue Virgin's operation of the west coast franchise generated for Trainline. An insider said the franchise's switch to FirstGroup was likely to have an impact on Trainline's future cashflows, but declined to say how much.
Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin founder, has fought a voluble battle against the Department for Transport's decision to award FirstGroup a 15-year licence to run the west coast line, one of Britain's most lucrative.
Virgin was one of the founding shareholders in the website, which launched in 1999 and has attracted 12 million registered users.
Exponent may also seek to pay itself a dividend from any refinancing as private equity firms attempt to take advantage of a renewed risk appetite from investors in the debt markets.
The refinancing discussions come two months after Exponent called off an auction of Trainline after bidders refused to meet the asking price of about £400m.
Priceline.com, the US-based bookings site, and a Canadian pension fund were among the parties which examined offers for Trainline.
Exponent and Trainline declined to comment.