Wagons (Photo Operail)

ESTONIA: National freight operator Operail has sold a further 807 wagons from its lease fleet for €22·1m as part of a programme of divestment of non-core assets.

More than 40 companies were invited to participate and 20 tenders were submitted.

After what Operail said was a ‘long and tense sales process’, two subsidiaries of Kazakh logistics group ATASU purchased a total of 410 wagons in late December, while in mid-January Estonian wagon rental company Skinest Rail bought 397.

The majority are leased to European companies and used in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia and the Baltic states; Operail said none has been leased to Russia.

The latest sales follow the purchase of 522 Operail wagons located in Ukraine by Fortior Capital and Teslar Trans; the €6·51m price was influenced by the war which has made it difficult to move the wagons out of the country.

Negotiations are underway for the sale of its remaining wagons.

What is now Operail began offering 1 520 mm gauge wagons for lease in 2001. The business was expanded when Russian transit traffic reduced following riots trigged by the relocation of a Soviet war memorial in Tallinn in 2007.

‘Freight transport as an independent business line was no longer feasible’, said Operail Chairman Raul Toomsalu when the latest sales were announced on January 25. ’As freight transport is strategically important for the state, we had to find ways to survive from the economic perspective. We sought alternative sources of income until we would be able to optimise and reform freight transport in Estonia.

‘The media has painted a picture of renting wagons being a “Russian business” for Operail. This is not true, the business was launched for the opposite reason — to reduce the dependence of the transit of goods from Russia.’

Operail said wagon leasing had generated 99% of its profit in the past six years, but the government decided to exit the business as it is not of strategic importance and there is a thriving free market.