Brussels gives green light to Eurostar share sale

The European Commission has approved a shareholders’ agreement which will see French national railway operator SNCF acquire sole management control of Eurostar.

The approval was subject to commitments designed not to hinder the entry of new operators on the London–Brussels/Paris routes via the Channel tunnel such as German operator Deutsche Bahn.

SNCF, which holds 55% of Eurostar, has effectively become its controlling operator after the UK’s £565 million sale of 40% in March to Quebec pension fund CDPQ. Belgian national railway SNCB has a 5% minority stake.

The deal means that SNCF must ensure that train routes and facilities are available to competitors.

Deutsche Bahn has long been considering launching services and has ordered trains, but has failed to give the green light to a battle sure to mean a price war with Eurostar, the Times reported.

A statement from Brussels said: “The commission’s decision is conditional on compliance with commitments designed to facilitate the entry of new rail operators onto the London-Brussels and London-Paris routes, on which Eurostar is currently the only operator.”

The commission said it “takes the view that the commitments offered reduce the barriers to entry for new operators seeking to offer international rail passenger transport services on the London-Paris and London-Brussels routes”, and thus the planned change in control “does not raise any competition concerns”.

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