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SNCF takes stake in BLS Cargo
Posted on Friday, 17 February 2017 09:20
BLS is selling off the 45.0 per cent stake in BLS Cargo it repurchased at the beginning of 2015 from Deutsche Bahn’s local unit to the logistics and freight division of France’s national railway operator SNCF.

However, before the Swiss regional and tourist transportation services provider can rope in its up-and-coming strategic investor, the sale must first be run past competition authorities.

Founded in 2001, BLS Cargo operates block trains in unaccompanied combined carriage, conventional wagonload and rolling highway services on the corridor on the central north-south axis through Switzerland.

Other bread-and-butter operations includes rail haulage and import and export transportation, though it also works with international partners to move its multi-system locomotives across national borders.

BLS Cargo generated revenue of CHF 190.60 million (EUR 178.91 million) in 2016 (2015: CHF 170.40 million), earnings before interest and tax of CHF 2.10 million (2015: CNF 2.10 million) and profit of CHF 1.50 million (2015: CHF 0.30 million).

Incoming investor SNCF Logistics is already an active player in the freight transport market with subsidiaries Captrain Germany and Captrain Italia representing the second-largest in the sectors of the respective countries.

While the multi-modal operator’s state-owned parent is less active in Switzerland, and along the north and south rail traffic corridor, BLS Cargo’s existing position is a good fit and presents opportunities for growth.

BLS has reportedly been searching for a strategic investor since it bought back Deutsche Bahn’s 45.0 per cent stake in January 2015 after the partner switched its Gotthard transit freight contract from the subsidiary to SBB Cargo.

BLS is retaining majority control of the business while the Ambrogio Group will remain as a 3.0 per cent shareholder, as before.

Last month a report by Market Research indicated the rail freight transportation sector in Europe is expected to rise by a compound annual growth rate of 2.8 per cent between 2017 and 2021.

It noted one of the factors is increased growth in the haulage routes between Asia and Europe, which could advance by 30.0 per cent in 2021.

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