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Sociéte d’Exploitation du Transgabonais’ concession to operate the 650 km railway linking Franceville with the capital Libreville and the port of Owendo has been extended, and a new investor has committed to providing finance and expertise to support a modernisation to increase capacity on the line
The Comilog subsidiary of mining group Eramet was previously the sole shareholder in Setrag, which has held the concession since 2005. Transport and energy infrastucture investor Meridiam has now invested €30m in a capital increase to take a 40% stake, while the Gabonese state has acquired a 9% stake, leaving Comilog with 51%.
Meridiam said it would bring extensive experience in infrastructure investment and management to support a major modernisation of the railway. It is to provide a further €40m, and contribute its rail expertise with the aim of improving safety, performance and capacity to facilitate domestic and export trade.
The line carried 330 000 passengers and nearly 9 million tonnes of freight in 2020, including wood and 90% of the country’s manganese production. The planned upgrading is intended to raise the line’s capacity from 12 million to 19 million tonnes/year.
‘We are thrilled to become a shareholder’, said Mathieu Peller, Meridiam’s COO for Africa, when the deal was announced on September 8. ‘This will contribute to accelerate the Transgabonais pace of investment and increase the capacity of the railway line. This strategic and vital infrastructure will benefit communities and local businesses and support the country’s development and economic growth’.
Kléber Silva, Deputy CEO in charge of Eramet’s Mining & Metals Division, said the transaction would significantly strengthen Setrag’s balance sheet, enabling it to support future development projects and ‘rise to the highest standards in rail transport’.
Meridiam’s acquisition of an equity interest was ‘an important milestone in the path of progress that we have been following for three years’, Silva explained, adding that the company would bring in its experience of infrastructure management in Africa and rail expertise from around the world. Meanwhile the state’s acquisition of a stake confirmed the government’s commitment to expanding the railway to support the country’s economic growth.
This article first appeared on www.railwaygazette.com
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