FRENCH National Railways (SNCF) has finalised the sale of its wagon leasing subsidiary Ermewa, to a consortium of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and German asset manager DWS Group.

SNCF president, Mr Jean-Pierre Farandou, says the sale will result in a reduction of SNCF’s debt by €3.2bn. SNCF had originally hoped the sale would bring in €2.5bn.

CDPQ is already an important partner of SNCF as a major shareholder of Keolis and Eurostar. DWS is a major shareholder of Akiem, which leases a large number of former SNCF locomotives. Ermewa, Europe’s second largest freight wagon and tank container leasing company, has a fleet of around 100,000 wagons and 1200 employees, and was taken over by SNCF in 2010. The company had a turnover of €489m and an operating profit of €271m in 2020.

SNCF entered exclusive negotiations with CDPQ and DWS for the sale in April following a competitive auction. The sale had been flagged for a number of years but was brought forward by the parlous state of SNCF’s finances.