Rail and bus operator Arriva has announced it is expanding its interests in Europe.
The Sunderland-based company has acquired a 49% interest in Societa Autoservizi F.V.G S.P.A (SAF), which operates buses in northeastern Italy.
Arriva has the option to acquire a further 11% interest in the operator by the end of 2006.
It now has transport operations in eight European countries including the UK, Denmark, Portugal and Italy.
Arriva chief executive Bob Davies said: "This is an excellent opportunity to develop our business in Italy, which has one of the largest public transport markets in Europe."
SAF has 600 employees and nearly 500 vehicles and its major operation is running a bus contract in the Udine area, which runs until December 2010.
Arriva first entered the Italian market in July 2002 with the acquisition of SAB, the country's largest private sector bus company.