New bid for channel ferry operator

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DFDS has joined forces with French shipping group Louis Dreyfus Armateurs to launch a bid for some of the assets of  SeaFrance the ferry operator that went into receivership in June 2010.

SeaFrance operates a short-sea passenger and freight route between Dover and Calais using three ro-pax ships and one ro-ro ship.

The partners would create a joint venture with DFDS as the majority shareholder. DFDS would transfer its Dover-Dunkirk service to the joint venture, while Louis Dreyfus Armateurs’ would transfer its LD Lines ferry services to the joint company.

Last month the European Commission opened an investigation into a plan by SNCF, the French railway group, to recapitalise SeaFrance to the tune of 233 million euros.

The commission said: “The commission will consider in particular whether the company can realistically become viable in the long term without public support and whether its participation in the restructuring costs is sufficient.

In August 2010 the commission authorised a credit line for between 40 and 70 million euros as rescue aid for SeaFrance on condition that the French authorities submitted, within six months, a restructuring plan demonstrating the firm’s future viability and avoiding any undue distortions of competition.

The restructuring plan notified on 18 February 2011 provides for a capital increase of EUR 223 million, which will be subscribed by SNCF Participations, SeaFrance’s sole shareholder.

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