French government leads bail-out of Eurostar operator

by | May 18, 2021

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Cross-channel passenger train operator Eurostar International has been bailed out, it was revealed on Tuesday, after the French government led a consortium of banks and shareholders in securing a £250m refinancing package for the company.
The firm, which is majority owned by France’s state railway operator SNCF, with minority shareholders including the Caisse pension fund investor in Quebec, Belgian state railway NMBS and Hermes Infrastructure, will receive £50m in shareholder equity, Bloomberg reported.

It will also get £150m of investor-guaranteed loans, with £50m of existing loans to be restructured.

Eurostar, which operates the only passenger train services through the Channel Tunnel, said it will begin to increase services between London St Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord from 27 May, as both the UK and France begin to relax border rules.

From the end of June, there will be three trains each day in each direction, with further services added throughout the rest of summer.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw passenger numbers on Eurostar plunge by 95%, there were trains between the two capitals running every half hour.

The UK government had held out from offering any help to the London-based Eurostar International, having sold its 40% holding in the company – originally created in the days of British Rail – in 2015.

Eurostar’s chief executive officer had said the company should be able to access the same Bank of England-guaranteed loans offered to airlines, given it was experiencing a similar fall in traffic.

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