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UK earns €1 billion from selling Eurostar stake

The British government will be happily counting the cash on Wednesday after it reached an agreement to sell its entire Eurostar stake for a much higher price than initially expected. The deal will bring in a cool €1 billion for state coffers.

UK earns €1 billion from selling Eurostar stake
Britain has sold its stake in Eurostar for a cool €1billion. But the French are not the buyers. Photo: Andrew Cowie/AFP

The British government has reached an agreement to sell its entire stake in the Eurostar train service between London, Brussels and Paris, the treasury said in a statement on Wednesday.

The stake is to be sold for a total of £757.1 million ($1.2 billion, €1 billion), part of a push to raise £20 billion in privatization sales to reduce Britain's debt.

Canadian institutional fund manager Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) and Britain-based fund Hermes Infrastructure have agreed to purchase the government's 40 percent stake for £585.1 million ($900 million, €804 million).

Eurostar has also agreed to redeem the government's preference share for a further £172 million ($264 million, €236 million).

The government said the sum was higher than what was expected when offers for the stake were invited in October 2014.

"It's great that we have reached an agreement to sell the UK's shareholding in Eurostar that delivers a fantastic deal for UK taxpayers that exceeds expectations," Chancellor George Osborne said in a statement.

Hermes International said the investment offered "stable and predictable cash flows" while CDPQ called the stake "a highly strategic asset".

French and Belgian rail services SNCF and SNCB still have the option of buying the 40 percent stake from Britain if they pay 15 percent more than the agreed price, the statement said.

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EUROSTAR

Eurostar’s souvenir bomb warning after Paris station evacuated

Passengers on Eurostar have been warned about bringing shells that have been turned into souvenirs onto the trains after Paris' Gare du Nord station had to be evacuated.

Eurostar's souvenir bomb warning after Paris station evacuated
The Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord was evacuated
The Paris transport hub had to be evacuated early on Monday morning after a World War II shell was found in a passenger's bag.
 

 

The evacuation, which happened at about 5.45am on Monday, was completed by 10am, but has led to longer than usual queues for Eurostar services.

It is the latest in a series of security alerts caused by passengers trying to take souvenir war artillery on to trains.

Eurostar issued a special warning ahead of the First World War commemorations in November 2018, but with just a month to go until memorial events for the D Day landings, there are fears that the problems could recur.
 
“As you're travelling during the commemoration period, please remember that you can't bring any real or replica bombs, shells (complete or partial) or weapons on board – even if you bought them from a gift shop,” Eurostar told passengers last year.
   
“If you bring them with you, they'll be confiscated at security and may result in the need to evacuate the station.”
   
Old World War I shells turned into flower pots have been popular souvenirs in Belgium and France ever since the end of the conflict, but passengers attempting to take them on board trains for Britain have sparked bomb scares in recent years.
 
Some of the alerts, which happen every few months, have also been caused by war memorabilia collectors bringing back disarmed ordnance unearthed by farmers at battle sites in northeast France.
   
Eurostar said even disarmed shells can set off X-ray alarms.
   
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