Government prepares privatization of EVR Cargo ({{commentsTotal}})

Estonian Railways, or EVR, is one of the larger Estonian state-owned companies. Source: (Toomas Huik/Postimees/Scanpix)

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is preparing the privatization of the state-owned rail freight operator EVR Cargo.

The first meeting to discuss the privatization of EVR Cargo took place in late May. Several scenarios were played through, and the value of the company and potential buyers or investors considered, as well as the question whether to privatize the entire company or just a part of it, minutes of EVR Cargo supervisory board meetings show.

The ministry's deputy secretary general in charge of transport, Ahti Kuningas, told BNS that officials were making projections for privatizing the company if political guidelines for this were provided.

Kuningas referred to the position of the minister of economic affairs and infrastructure, Kristen Michal (Reform), who has said that state ownership was unnecessary in domains where there was a seamless market, and that once the rail freight market stabilized, it would be possible to consider the privatization or listing of a minority stake in EVR Cargo.

EVR Cargo’s CEO, Raul Toomsalu said in answer to the question what was discussed in the meeting between the ministry and the company that there was a serious plan to sell the company into private hands, but that it would be premature to disclose any details.

“The price projection was brought up, but since this was the first meeting on this topic between the board and the ministry, we mostly considered technical aspects of the process, and there has been no in-depth analysis of the potential price,” Toomsalu told BNS.

In Toomsalu’s words, the only thing that’s certain is that the two parties will meet again in August or September.

It appears from the supervisory board’s minutes that EVR Cargo’s merger with oil transit company Vopak E.O.S.’s rail subsidiary E.R.S. AS had also been considered, but Toomsalu stated that this was no longer relevant, as E.R.S.’s freight volumes were virtually nonexistent.

The freight flows and financial results of EVR Cargo have been negatively affected by a drastic fall in rail transit between Estonia and Russia. The company finished 2015 with a loss of €1.8m, compared to a profit of €2.15m in 2014.

The company carried 2.56 million tons of goods in the first quarter of 2016, which marks a drop of 26% compared to the same period a year earlier. Freight volumes have declined in all categories save for bulk cargo and chemical goods.

Editor: Editor: Dario Cavegn

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