Bidders reveal business plans

  • 2000-12-14
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - One of the contenders for Estonian Railway (ER) privatization, RER Ltd. (People's Railway Privatization Ltd.) expects to make 800 million kroons profit annually by the year 2010.

RER, an Estonian company uniting major local businessmen, held a press conference regarding ER's business plans.

Urmas Soorumaa, RER board member, said the last four months were full of exhausting work for RER.

Rain Tamm, the president of RER, said his company is planning continual investments into Estonian Railway on behalf of the profits the enterprise would make. RER business plans state that there will be 6.7 percent growth of annual net turnover, and that the profits would grow roughly by 100 million kroons starting from the year 2001. RER plans to invest a total of seven billion kroons in ER's infrastructure, rolling stock and other parts in the next 10 years.

RER's competitors, Baltic Rail Service and Rail Estonia, have different numbers. Rail Estonia will make eight billion kroons worth of investments and hopes to reap a billion as 2010's annual profit. Baltic Rail Service will invest five billion kroons and plans to gain from 600 to 700 million kroons annually from 2010.

Aadu Lukas, oil transit tycoon and head of Pakterminal Ltd. commented on future Russian transit, probably the most important topic of all issues related to ER. "As the road infrastructure is not well developed, railway remains the most convenient method of transportation in Russia," said Lukas.

Toomas Annus, RER board member added: "Our clients are neither in America nor in Western Europe. They are here in Estonia or to the east of our country."

Tamm said that in the near future oil transit would increase, but then it's share will decline in comparison with other types of goods transported by Estonian Railway.

Swedish railway company SJ International AB holds 35 percent of RER shares, the rest belong to Estonian businessmen.

Every shareholder of RER has less than ten percent of company shares and none of the shareholders will have more than that. "We are planning a public flotation in the next several years, if we become the preferred bidder," said Tamm.

Hjalmar Liivik, the Finance Ministry's official dealing with state-owned enterprises, told BNS the state expected 30 million kroons worth of dividends from Estonian Railway by next year.

"We are more modest in estimating the profits, because ER should be assessed conservatively," Guido Sammelselg, Baltic Rail Service vice president, told the Eesti Paevaleht daily. He added that forecasting profits for a decade ahead is useless when talking about ER, a politically sensitive enterprise, and that by doing so, RER and Rail Estonia fool themselves and their partners.

While business people argue, laymen live their lives. More than half of all Estonian residents know practically nothing about the privatization. According to a recent survey by Saar Poll company, 58 percent of local people are poorly or very poorly informed about the privatization.

Only 1 percent admitted they were very well informed. Thirty-six percent of the residents said they are rather familiar with the latest news on ER's privatization.

Half of Estonians believe that the state-owned railway firm Eesti Raudtee needs to be privatized while 27 percent are against it, Estonian news agency ETA reported Dec. 7.

Fifty percent of Estonians believe that if the railways are not privatized, they would dilapidate under state ownership. Forty-three percent said that in private ownership the railways would be more successful economically.

Twenty-seven percent of Estonians found that the railways are so important for Estonia they should not be privatized even if their economic development slowed down as a result.

Fifteen percent of Estonians said they believe the railway firm to be one of the pillars of Estonia's economy.

More than one half of Estonians are ill-informed about the privatization of the railways. Five percent believe they are well-informed and 36 percent have average information.

Two-thirds of the respondents said that Estonian companies should be favored as buyers of the railways.

Two-thirds also said that the privatization process has not gone smoothly thus far.