THERECENT change in government looks certain to revive pressure to privatise all or part of German Railway. With DB forecasting a 2005 operating profit of €400m on December 7, there are suggestions that steps may be taken this year.
DB continues to expand aggressively. On November 16 it announced the acquisition from The Brink’s Company of US logistics company Bax Global for US$1·1bn. It has expressed interest in Hamburg port logistics business HHLA and the Hamburger Hochbahn, both owned by the city. Were this to go through, it could include relocation of DB’s headquarters to Hamburg.
When this was revealed in late November by Mayor of Hamburg Ole van Beust, it triggered a furious reaction from his Berlin counterpart, Klaus Wowereit, who feared the loss of 1000 jobs to a rival city. Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee called in DB chief Hartmut Mehdorn to explain what was going on, after which DB confirmed that ’discussions are still at an early stage’ and promised that decisions would not be taken before the first quarter of 2006.
On December 2, the European Rail Freight Association attacked DB’s purchase of Bax Global. It called on the European Commission to check if the German government had awarded DB any inadmissible aid and to investigate the possibility of cross-subsidy from DB Regio. Pointing out that DB was ’already deep in debt’, ERFA suggested that DB may be ’illicitly expanding its leading position in Germany at the expense of small and medium-sized operators’. It also said that ’DB has piled up a tangled mass of global risks that have little to do with the German railways’.