Saturday, 17 Apr 2021

Eurostar bailout nightmare: Boris snubs Macron’s desperate plea –French rail firm in chaos

Eurostar ‘cannot be allowed to collapse’ says Irish MEP

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Government ministers have suggested the company should look to shareholders – including the French state-backed rail firm – to address its financial woes. Eurostar is at risk of bankruptcy following a collapse in revenue after passenger numbers crashed 95 percent during the pandemic. Britain was said to be taking a tough line against offering any financial aid to the firm.

A UK official told the FT: “The tunnel and the ruling stock are there.

“Someone would take them on, even if the company went to the wall.

“There’s no appetite for bailing them out at all.”

The Government insists the French state and other private shareholders should step in to save Eurostar from collapse.

Paris has a majority 55 percent stake in the cross-Channel transport firm via state-owned railway SNCF, and Belgium has five percent.

The UK sold its stake in Eurostar in 2015 to help pay off Government debts.

Eurostar has £400million worth of loans that are due by June, although there is some suggestion the deadline can be extended.

The company has urged the Government to offer it some rescue funds.

France has rejected a similar plea, insisting it is for Britain to save the firm because it’s headquartered in London.

A senior official in Paris said President Emmanuel Macron’s government also expected shareholders and creditors to make a further effort before state aid is made available.

So far there has been no high-level political contacts between France and Britain to discuss saving Eurostar.

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Shareholders, including Canadian pension fund Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec and Hermes Infrastructure, have pumped in more than £170million during the pandemic.

Eurostar and the UK have held talks over a possible £60million state-backed loan to help the firm through the crisis.

Last month SNCF warned that Eurostar would need new funds in “weeks not months” to survive the looming cash crunch.

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And its chief executive Jean-Pierre Farandou added: “We are getting closer to the moment when Eurostar have real cash flow problems… by next month, we have to conclude these discussions.

“We hope that it will be weeks because the financial situation is going to be very difficult at the end of May, start of June.

“Eurostar is even more important after Brexit. It’s worth the cost of fighting for Eurostar. Eurostar is strategic, it’s geopolitical.”

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