DFDS boss dismisses rival bid for SeaFrance

The boss of Danish ferry giant DFDS has claimed that only his company can rescue struggling cross-channel operator SeaFrance.

President and chief executive Niels Smedegaard dismissed a rival offer from a workers’ co-operative for the French ferry firm as a “mirage”. His comments came ahead of a Paris commercial court convening today to rule on the two bids.

SeaFrance has suspended operations for 48 hours on the Dover-Calais route while waiting for the outcome of the court hearing.

The DFDS bid, which has France’s LD Lines as a minority partner, involves creating a new company operating several channel routes: Dover-Calais, Dunkirk-Dover (DFDS) and Le Havre-Portsmouth and Dieppe-Newhaven (LD Lines).

Three of SeaFrance’s fleet of four vessels would be retained, with a freight ferry switched to Dover-Dunkirk instead of Calais. DFDS-LD Lines would retain only 460 workers out of the SeaFrance workforce of more than 800.

Smedegaard, quoted by French regional newspaper La Voix du Nord, said: “The co-op’s bid does not have any financing and also makes provision to retain four vessels and all of the workforce.

“In the current crisis situation, with the competition and over-capacity which exists on the cross-Channel market today, the co-op’s project just isn’t viable.” He added: “Certain people still believe that the French state will intervene financially but the EU has made it clear that this is no longer possible.

“Is France going to go against the EU? The reality is, apart from DFDS, no one is interested in SeaFrance.” His comments came as DFDS today delivered a 47.6% rise in third quarter profits to DKK 332 million and forecast a year end operating profit of DKK 1.5 billion.

Smedegaard described the results as being in line with expectations following a “decisive turnaround” in earnings from transport and logistics activities.

“There is growing uncertainty about future growth in Europe’s economies, but regardless of the prospect of lower growth in some markets, DFDS’ solid capital structure and efficiency projects put us in a strong position to face the future,” he said.

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