Czech minister of transport, Mr Karel Havlíček, told news website Zdopravy.cz that meetings had taken place between the operators over the last few days. “So far, this is an indicative meeting between the two entities,” he says. “I am receiving ongoing information.”
When approach by IRJ for comment, Leo Express board member and former CEO Mr Peter Köhler said they were not able to comment on mergers and acquisitions. This was echoed by Leo Express chairman of the board, Mr Leoš Novotný, who told Zdopravy.cz that there was nothing to comment on until an agreement was signed.
Any merger would be significant as it would combine state-owned incumbent ČD with one of the Czech Republic's two private open-access passenger operators.
“Leo Express has long been negotiating the entry of a strategic partner that would enable the further growth of a successful project,” Leo Express spokesman, Mr Emil Sedlařík, told Zdopravy.cz. “Negotiations are taking place with many interested parties, and due to confidentiality agreements, we cannot comment on them in more detail.”
“As a trading company, we never comment on such speculation,” a ČD spokesman told Zdopravy.cz. “In general, however, we are monitoring the market and if we find an opportunity to further develop our business, and improve and expand our services, we will be interested in such an opportunity. And not only in the passenger rail segment, but also in the bus segment, for example. It may be, for example, entry into foreign markets through the acquisition of a foreign carrier, or other business opportunities that appear within the Czech Republic.
“Every such business decision must always be subjected to a thorough analysis, it will be in accordance with the company's strategy, it will be advantageous for ČD and in the end it will be approved by the company's top bodies.”
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted Leo Express's performance, with the company telling IRJ earlier this month that it was facing a difficult future after a dramatic fall in revenue. Leo Express was operating at around 10% of its normal service capacity and carrying just 5% of usual passengers.