BERLIN (Reuters) - German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn DBN.UL said on Monday it had bought Britain’s Laing Rail, the owner of Chiltern Railways, for an undisclosed sum.
German newspapers, citing sources involved in the negotiations, have reported Deutsche Bahn had been willing to pay up to 170 million euros (126.4 million pounds) for Laing Rail, a joint owner of overground rail services in London and other operations in Wales and the west of England.
Deutsche Bahn board member Karl-Friedrich Rausch, in a conference call with journalists, declined to comment on the amount paid for the company.
Chiltern Railways has a franchise to run passenger services in the area between northwest London and Birmingham until 2020. According to the Financial Times Deutschland, it has an annual turnover of 280 million euros.
“Chiltern is the basis for going further into the British market,” Rausch said, adding that he was optimistic the deal would be approved by rail authorities in Britain.
Deutsche Bahn, which the German government aims to partly privatise by the end of 2009, said in a statement that the chairman and management of Chiltern Railways will remain in control of the company, which will also keep its name.
The FTD said Deutsche Bahn would be able to link Laing Rail with its British freight unit English Welsh & Scottish Railway Holdings (EWS) and would have a combined turnover of around one billion euros annually.
Fund manager Henderson HGI.L put Laing Rail’s passenger operations up for sale in September so that its project-management division, John Laing, can focus on infrastructure activities.
Rausch said he would not comment on who the other bidders were. Go-Ahead Group (GOG.L) and Arriva ARI.L had said last year they would be looking at Chiltern, while National Express (NEX.L) and Stagecoach (SGC.L) and French bus and rail operator Keolis had also been seen as likely bidders.
Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Quentin Bryar