Officially married March 4, 2011, the Veolia Transdev couple is already getting a divorce. At a press conference held December 6, 2011 before starting an investor day, Antoine Frérot confirmed Veolia Environnement's intention to divest of transport business in order to "significantly relieve the debt" and refocus the group on three activities : water, waste and energy. VE's debt amounts to €15 billion.
The group also plans to abandon regulated water operations in the UK and solid waste operations in the US, and continued rationalization of the company's geographic footprint.
"Veolia is not the best to ensure a bright future for Transdev, said VE CEO. The group has completed Veolia Transdev merger mid-2011 to create a worldwide leader of public transport managed by Jérôme Gallot, with a turnover of 8 billion euros turnover (read)
"We went through all our activities and decided to give up those that are not essential to our transformation and our future, so we made a strategic decision to seek new shareholders for the transport business," added Antoine Frérot, noting that this activity creates "less synergies" with other businesses.Who might be interested ?
The desinvestment from Veolia Transdev will mean selling as a whole or progressively diluting the capital, and shall be effective by the end of 2013, when the group wants to have completed its refocusing.
Who might be interested and able to buy the 50% shares held by VE in Veolia Transdev recently merged ? "There are three types of shareholders who may be interested in this activity : our current partner Caisse des Depots (CDC), but also financial investors interested in transportation business, or industrial investors," said Antoine Frérot.
"Contacts are already underway," he added, refusing to name any. Could it be Keolis, which failed as a candidate when the decision to merge with Veolia Transdev was taken in 2009 ? It is hard to imagine the SNCF subsidiary getting the public transport monopoly in France.
RATP Dev who also failed to take control of Transdev and decided to sell 25% shares it owned in Transdev (getting assets in France and abroad in exchange) ? With a debt of nearly €5 billion, and a €1.8 billion new investment plan in the Paris region, the project might be too big.
Or British operators such as First which failed to enter France through acquisitions ? Or simply the Caisse des dépôts getting a 100% control of the worldwide public transport leader ? In a press relase dated Dec 6, 201, CDC says it has no intention to divest Veolia Transdev, "in a short or in a mid term", but excludes "no option" after the decision by Veolia Environnement to sell its share.