Romania's Posta Romana only attracts one bid

By bne IntelliNews October 2, 2014

bne -

Belgian postal company bpost has emerged as the sole bidder for a 51% stake in Posta Romana, despite earlier expressions of interest from several other European operators. Bucharest has been trying for several years to privatise a stake in the company as part of its commitments to the International Monetary Fund. 

The size of the bid from bpost, which is controlled by the Belgian government, for the Romanian state postal services company has not been disclosed. 

bpost will now be given access to Posta Romana's financial data and management information, paving the way for the Belgian company to submit a final bid after it completes its due diligence. The bid from bpost will also trigger a debt-to-share conversion process at Posta Romania, a requirement for the sale of the company to go ahead. 

"The decision of the Belgian operator fulfills the requirement for successful privatisation," said Posta Romana director-general Alexandru Petrescu, in a statement. "It reflects the consistent, transparent and reliable path taken by the privatisation commission over the past two years, working with the organisation and the ministry."

bpost was the only bidder for the company, despite reports in the local media that several other companies including Britain's Royal Mail, France's La Poste and postal operators from Holland and Poland had expressed an interest prior to the September 30 deadline. 

Romania's Information Society Minister Alexandru-Razvan Cotovelea said that the bid for Posta Romana - the first step towards its privatisation - was evidence of the increase in efficiency at the company, where a restructuring process was launched in 2011. 

"This shows the seriousness of the Romanian government regarding the privatisation of large Romanian companies. It is a long way to the successful completion of negotiations, but I assure you that the discussions will be based on transparency, professionalism and concern for all employees," Cotovelea said in a statement published on the ministry's website.

Posta Romana owns Romania's main postal distribution network and more than 5,600 post offices across the country. Although around 12% of the workforce was laid off during the restructuring, the company remains Romania's largest employer.

The Romanian government has been trying to find a strategic investor for several years. Bucharest initially agreed with the IMF that it would sell a 20% stake in the company. This plan was scrapped in December 2012, when the government rethought its privatisaton strategy for the company, in favour of selling a majority stake in an attempt to attract investors. However, an attempt to sell the company in early 2013 flopped despite expressions of interest from around 10 potential buyers. 

The Romanian government is in the process of selling off stakes in several state owned companies. Progress has been mixed, with successful IPOs of power company Electrica and Romania's largest natural gas company Romgaz SA, but lengthy delays in restructuring and repeated failures to sell off other companies such as rail freight operator CFR Marfa, Posta Romana and petrochemicals company Oltchim.

More companies may also be put up for sale - Fondul Proprietatea's manager Grzegorz Konieczny, CEO Romania of Franklin Templeton Investment Management, said in September the fund was in talks with the Romanian government over proposed IPOs of the operators of Bucharest international airport and Constanta Port, the largest port on the Black Sea, as well as salt monopoly Salrom. Decisions are expected in early 2015. 

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