The privatisation was originally due to take place at the beginning of 2012, but was subsequently deferred to the second half of 2012 as part of revisions to the broader privatisation programme. However, in May 2012 the government postponed the privatisation again, this time with a target date of September 2013. Last July a further postponement was announced after the government decided it wanted to see the company's financial situation improve before proceeding with the sale.

However CP CEO Mr Manuel Queiró announced recently that the transfer of 13 freight terminals from CP Carga to infrastructure manager Refer– one of the key requirements of the sale – will go ahead and is due to be completed by June.

Following the creation of Refer in 1997, CP retained ownership of all freight terminals because their commercial operation was considered vital to CP's revenues. However, Refer has always wanted to assume management control of these assets in order to open up the Portuguese railfreight market to competition.

The sale of loss-making CP Carga is a condition of Portugal's bailout by the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. CP Carga currently has debts of around €100m.