GEFCO car transporter wagons, source: GEFCO

CMA CGM possibly new owner of Russian shares GEFCO

The French logistics service provider Gefco, together with its largest customer, the French-Italian car manufacturer Stellantis (including Peugeot, Fiat, Citroën, Chrysler and Opel), is at the verge of completing a complete takeover of the majority stake (75%) of Russian state railways. French media mention shipping company CMA CGM as the new owner of the car carrier.

A deal to buy back the shares has already been signed with the Russians, Gefco reported without giving further details. The company wants to update the market in a few days about the new shareholder structure, it says further. The forwarding company describes the share buyback as a “courageous step to ensure the survival of Gefco”.

The French government states in an explanation that it is now waiting for permission from the competition authorities of the European Commission to complete the sale. They should make a decision about that in the coming days.

New sanctions

The new sanctions on Russia announced by the EU yesterday make it almost impossible to do business for Western companies with Russian majority shareholders. The company is therefore in a race against the clock to get rid of the Russian shares.

The new sanctions include a general EU ban on participation of Russian companies in public procurement in EU Member States, or an exclusion of all financial support, be it European or national, to Russian public bodies. Because European tax money should not go to Russia in whatever shape or form. Additional asset freezes against individuals have also been announced.

Not only the survival of Gefco, including the 11,500 jobs is at stake, but also that of the global automotive logistics of its largest customer and minority shareholder Stellantis (25%). In addition, other car brands, such as Toyota and Ford, are customers of Gefco.

RZD a painful issue

As a major shareholder, RZD has become a painful issue for Gefco since the war in Ukraine and the consequent EU sanctions. The top of the freight forwarding company spoke last week of an “image problem”, especially because RZD is led by Oleg Belozerov, a close confidant of President Vladimir Putin. Incidentally, Belozerov himself had wanted to get rid of the interest in the French logistics service provider for some time.

This issue was less sensitive a month ago, when the 5th package of sanctions had not yet been announced. The company responded to questions from RailFreight.com: “The latest sanctions by the United States and the European Union are impacting our majority shareholder, Russian Railways, by limiting the possibilities of new funding. But they have no effect on the operational conduct of our business. Gefco remains an independent and non-political company.

Future of Gefco at stake

Gefco is a French company of international scope, with customers and teams all over the world. With over 70 years of experience in complex business environments, we remain fully committed to maintaining our customers’ supply chains”, the company responded to the query on 2 March.

But with the knowledge today, it realised that not only the survival of Gefco including the 11,500 jobs is at stake, but also that of the global automotive logistics of its largest customer and minority shareholder Stellantis (25%). In addition, other car brands, such as Toyota and Ford, are customers of Gefco.

CMA CGM or not?

Gefco does not want to comment on the question of who will provide the money for the share buyback and whether the Russian majority stake will eventually end up with CMA CGM.

The French shipping company has shown interest in Gefco some time ago, but is currently not responding to questions from the French media. The shipping company has the financial capacity and has been acquiring strategic market positions in global logistics for some time now through acquisitions. A few years ago, for example, it bought Ceva Logistics, which is also a major player in contract logistics for the automotive industry. A merger with Gefco could further strengthen that market position.

This article was written in cooperation with Stuart Todd, our France correspondent and Simone van der Lee from Nieuwsblad Transport.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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