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18.12.14

SNCF could yet outbid others for UK Eurostar stake

SNCF is considering using its pre-emption purchase rights on Eurostar to block certain bidders who are seeking to buy up the British government’s 40% stake in the Channel Tunnel operator, according to Reuters.

The French-state-owned operator has a 55% share of Eurostar while the final 5% belongs to the Belgian government. In October, it was reported that both had decided not to bid on the UK stake, which has been suggested could raise £300m for the Treasury.

But SNCF has a ‘last-look right’, which lets it outbid any final offer if it pays a 15% premium.

Singapore’s state-backed investment fund GIC and the China Investment Corporation (CIC) are understood to be two of the bidders. UK private equity firm 3i and French life insurance fund Predica have teamed up to make a third bid. A Netherlands rail business is also understood to be on the shortlist.

The government has put Britain’s stake up for sale as part of its plan to reduce national debt by offloading state assets.

''I am determined that we go on making the decisions to reform the British economy and tackle our debts. So we will proceed with the potential sale of the UK's shareholding in Eurostar today,'' chancellor George Osborne told Parliament.

As RTM previously reported, Eurostar recently celebrated its 20th anniversary by unveiling its new state-of-the-art e320 train, capable of reaching speeds up to 200mph. The company also announced its decision to augment its fleet with a further seven of the new Siemens-built Class 374 trains. With the original order of 10 e320s now in the final stage of completion, this increases the number of new trains to 17 in total.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Mikeyb   24/12/2014 at 16:27

Surely if SNCF is the successful bidder, the French Government will be seen to be the practical owner of Eurostar, which may not go down too well with Euro-sceptic politicians.

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