FirstGroup, the British transport company, ended its 26-month relationship with New World Development yesterday by selling back to New World its 26 per cent holding in the New World First Holdings (NWFH) joint venture for HK$457 million. The deal values the joint venture at HK$1.8 billion and gives FirstGroup a profit before tax of about GBP14 million (HK$163.5 million) over the 18 months since the joint venture started operating. The joint venture last November won seven bus routes in Kowloon, cracking the monopoly held by Kowloon Motor Bus Holdings. In the year to the end of March, it contributed GBP800 million in earnings to FirstGroup. Last September, FirstGroup completed its acquisitions of Ryder Public Transportation Services and Bruce Transportation Services, both based in the US. 'Basically [the New World First Bus joint venture] has done very well for us, but since that time, we have bought into America in a big way, and the group has decided to focus its activities on UK bus and UK rail, and the US,' a spokesman said. The sale means Stagecoach is the only British transport company with interests in Hong Kong, through ownership of Citybus, as well as its 21.8 per cent stake in Road King Infrastructure, the mainland toll-road operator. New World Development said yesterday that its acquisition of FirstGroup's 26 per cent holding in NWFH comprised a HK$193.31 million payment for the equity of the venture and HK$263.69 million for debt. New World Services, a 51.2 per cent-owned subsidiary of New World Development, would actually buy the holding, New World said, and would fund the deal from internal cash resources. New World said it had released FirstGroup from all its obligations under the deal.