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The three African rail services operated by the French industrial group Bolloré are to be sold to Mediterranean Shipping Co as part of a deal worth €5∙7bn.
Bolloré announced in December its intention to sell its Bolloré Africa Logistics subsidiary, which has interests in 49 different countries. The Italian-Swiss shipping and logistics group has been granted exclusivity until March 31 to affirm its commitment to buy the business, and agree final terms. The deal would still require approval from the relevant competition authorities.
Bolloré Africa Logistics’ three railway operating concessions are Sitarail, Camrail and Benirail. All are metre gauge.
The Sitarail concession covers operation of the 1 260 km line between Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire and Kaya in Burkina Faso. This carries around 200 000 passengers and 900 000 tonnes of freight a year; northbound traffic mainly comprises fuel, fertiliser, containers and cement, with southbound goods consisting largely of cotton and local produce.
In Cameroon the Camrail concession that started in 1999 handles about 1∙8 million tonnes of freight and 1∙6 million passengers a year on routes from the financial capital Doula to Kumba, Douala to Yaoundé and Yaoundé to Ngaoundéré, amounting to around 1 000 route-km.
Bénirail operates the 500 km line in Bénin linking the port of Cotonou to the city of Parakou. The concession signed in August 2015 also involves the state of Niger, where a 143 km railway has been built between the capital Niamey and Dosso. This line features numerous hydraulic structures designed to protect it from the effects of heavy rains in the region; although it was inaugurated in January 2016 by President Issoufou Mahamadou, it has never been used.
The Dosso line was intended to form part of the long-planned route from Parakou to Niamey but the scheme was halted following legal disputes between Bolloré Africa Logistics and rival contractor Petrolin. In the longer term the railway could be integrated with the planned megaproject for construction of a 2 700 km loop linking Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Niger, Bénin and Togo.
The loop was to have been developed by the Bénirail joint venture of Bolloré Group, the governments of Bénin and Niger and local investors. However, following hostility from Bénin President Patrice Talon, other controversies and security concerns, the group has pulled out of the project which may now be taken forward by a Chinese consortium.
Bolloré Africa Logistics generates an annual turnover of €2∙1bn. It is made up of a network of 250 subsidiaries with 21 000 employees in 49 countries, 47 of which are in Africa. It maintains offices in 42 African ports and manages 16 container terminals handling around 4∙8 million TEUs a year, plus seven ro-ro terminals and two timber terminals.
MSC is already active in the region through its Terminal Investment Group subsidiary, which operates in the ports of Lomé in Togo and San Pedro in the southwest of Côte d’Ivoire.
This article first appeared on www.railwaygazette.com
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