Eurotunnel attacks bid to buy ferries

Chunnel firm objects to LD Lines and DFDS Seaways consortium's plan to save SeaFrance from foundering

EUROTUNNEL has attacked plans by ferry companies LD Lines and DFDS Seaways to buy up foundering French ferry firm SeaFrance, saying that the move would be anti-competitive.

It is a new blow for the SNCF-owned subsidiary which runs services between Calais and Dover. Last week the European Commission rejected a planned funding boost for the company as it contained state aid.

LD Lines and DFDS already run cross-Channel services and Eurotunnel objected that their plans to buy three of the four SeaFrance ferries would reduce competition and create an unacceptable advantage, especially as the bid would be backed by state funds.

Now only two takeover bids are still in for SeaFrance: from the LD/DFDS consortium and one from a workers' cooperative. A final decision is expected on November 16.

The LD/DFDS bid would see the nearly half of the 880 SeaFrance jobs cut. With only 460 in the new group and 80 more being offered work within LD Lines and DFDS Seaways.

All jobs would be retained in the cooperative bid, which has been backed by the main SeaFrance staff union CFDT. The bid sees the firm's fleet of four ships being bought for a token €1 and unnamed investors putting in up to €80 million to fund the project.

If neither bid is accepted SeaFrance will go into liquidation.