7 Sep 2017 18:53

RZD wants alternative opertor based own assets if TransContainer sold

VLADIVOSTOK. Sept 7 (Interfax) - Russian Railways (RZD) would want the right to set up an alternative operator based on its own terminal and warehouse assets in the event a controlling stake in container rail freight operator TransContainer is sold, RZD President Oleg Belozerov told reporters during the Eastern Economic Forum.

"We still think the status quo [preserving the current shareholder structure] would be the most convenient option. But a second option, which the government has discussed, involving us selling our 50% plus one share, is also possible, provided they give us the opportunity to create an alternative to TransContainer," Belozerov said.

That alternative could be "based on RZD assets," he said. "We have a huge number of assets: there's one which owns loading and unloading sites [Directorate for the Management of Terminal and Warehouse Complex]. We have a lot of rail sidings that are not in use and we are bringing them into use. So we think it would be possible to create such an alternative," he said.

Asked whether a new such operator would have to have its own fleet, he said the availability of rolling stock was not always an advantage in the logistics business and could even reduce its efficiency. "TransContainer owns both a fleet and loading facilities, but during an analysis of Unified Transport and Logistics Company [UTLC, a wholly owned RZD subsidiary which provides container transit services and holds the RZD stake in TransContainer] we concluded that in some cases it is better to split the business up," he said.

"UTLC works without assets because if you have assets you are tied to them and you have to get as much use as you can out of them. But in some cases the effect in logistics is that being tied down limits your room for maneuver, and you are not using the best option. So you also need to think about how to optimize your logistics options," Belozerov said, giving French operator GEFCO, where RZD has a 75% stake, as an example and "which does not have a very large perimeter of assets."

Asked why an alternative to TransContainer would be needed, he said he would want to mitigate the possible risks from the operator being developed by a new owner. "Some processes could be set in motion, which do not allow us as a railway to develop this business. This must not be allowed to happen," he said.

If market conditions are put in place, then RZD would probably be "the most convenient player" through which it might be possible to create all the conditions for the container shipments market "to be just that, a market and not a monopoly." "Moreover, there are international projects where TransContainer is involved. So [in the government] a further evaluation is under way, what needs to be done to honor all our commitments," Belozerov said.

Asked about the possibility of a joint sale of shares in TransContainer by Russian Railways and one of the operator's biggest minority shareholders, set up with its involvement - the Blagosostoyanie non-state pension fund with 24.5% - then he called for "focus on the understanding that [the monopoly] is prepared to consider selling the 50% plus one share]."

Belozerov also said he was happy that a lot of companies were interested in the asset.