SWISS company Ahaus Alstatter Eisenbahn Cargo (AAE) won the competition over the purchase of a 66-percent stake in Cargo Wagon, a subsidiary of the state-run railway freight carrier Cargo. The opposition Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party criticised the sale, calling it an example of how Smer harms Slovakia.

“AAE was the only company to meet all the requirements for a binding bid for the purchase, including by securing financing for the purchase of wagons worth a sum of €216.66 million,” said Transport Minister Ján Počiatek, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

Počiatek added that AAE also agreed to leaseback terms for 8,218 wagons for a period of eight years with an option for another eight years. The price has been set at €10.35 per wagon per day.

“Apart from this, AAE will pay €7 million for a 66-percent stake in Cargo Wagon,” Počiatek said, as quoted by TASR.

According to the minister, the documentation for the terms of financing the purchase of the wagons will be finalised in the next few days.

“This documentation will come into force only after the approval of the Slovak Anti-monopoly Office, but we do not expect any complications there,” the minister added.

Originally, 15 companies were interested in buying shares in Cargo Wagon. That number later dropped to five, but only two actually submitted bids. In addition to AAE, there was a consortium of firms led by Slovenská Plavba a Prístavy, the Sme daily wrote. This company, however, failed to prove that financing to purchase the wagon fleet had been secured.

All the money that the parent company Cargo obtains from the transaction will go toward eliminating its debt, TASR wrote.

Desana Mertinková, an expert on railway transport, said that transparency in the process was low. She, however, considers the company AAE a reputable leasing firm in the European market, the SITA newswire wrote.

Meanwhile, SaS said that the privatisation of the state-run freight carrier will take place at a time when all other means to revitalise the company have been exhausted and “there was nearly nothing to embezzle from the company close to the bankruptcy”, as reported by SITA.

SaS also informed that first government of Robert Fico halted the privatisation of Cargo. At the time it could have benefitted €520 million from the sale.

Source: TASR, Sme, SITA

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

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