Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Eurotunnel Company Buys First GBRf Rail Freight Operation

Natural Partner for Veolia Cargo Acquisition
Shipping News Feature

UK - FRANCE – Europorte, a wholly owned subsidiary of Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel, have purchased First GBRf, formerly GB Railfreight and the third largest rail freight company in the country, from previous owners First Group plc. The deal, valued at between 24 and 31 million pounds, is a natural choice for Eurotunnel who purchased French operator Veolia Cargo just six months ago.

Veolia (now absorbed into Europorte) cover the whole of France and have links with good penetration throughout Germany, Belgium, Italy and Spain therefore First GBRf will give Eurotunnel a favourable position throughout the whole of Western Europe from the UK making up an integrated network which may give them a distinct advantage over competitors. With more freight slated to move from trucks to rail Eurotunnel, who through necessity have always taken a long term view, would seem very favourably placed.

Freight tonnages have been well down world wide recently, and cross channel traffic has been particularly badly hit, dropping 60% against peak totals and Eurotunnel chairman Jacques Gounon confirmed the group saw UK – European rail freight as a “growing market” announcing his intent to develop a “Franco – British axis”.

First GBRf numbered French names like EDF amongst its customers and had sales around £55 million per annum but was basically the First Group’s only sizeable freight operation following its acquisition in 2003 as part of First’s GB Railways purchase. First Group needed the money to reduce debt and say they will now concentrate on their core businesses of bus and train passenger services in the UK and North America.

Photo: Msieu Jacques Gounon (courtesy Eurotunnel)