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Tue 29 May 2007 02:12 PM

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Abu Dhabi firm hops aboard Big Bus

Al Fahim Group has bought a 30% stake in the tour company and aims to launch a public transport service.

Owners of London-based The Big Bus Co., which runs hop-on hop-off tourist buses in the British capital, Baltimore and Dubai, sold a 30% stake to a Gulf Arab family, Abu Dhabi's Al Fahim Group said on Tuesday.

United Arab Emirates-based Al Fahim, whose business includes automotives, hotels and restaurants, becomes the 16-year-old bus company's second-largest shareholder after Britain's Maybury family, Peter Beynon, managing director of Al Fahim, told Reuters. He declined to say how much Al Fahim paid for the stake.

Al Fahim plans to help the bus company expand into Asia with operations in cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore, Beynon said. Operations will start in Hong King this year.

"It's a good investment, and fits well with our transport, travel and automotive interests," Beynon said. "We plan to expand into alternative markets."

Al Fahim will use its stake to bid for a licence in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, to start a public bus service, Beynon said.

Fuelled by a tripling of oil prices during the last five years, Gulf Arab acquisitions of foreign companies have surged. Gulf governments and companies spent almost $67 billion on foreign assets in 2005 and 2006, three times as much as in the previous eight years combined, according to London-based research company Dealogic.

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