Mexican ferry firm hopes to buy France's SNCM before year's end

MEXICO CITY Tue Jun 17, 2014 4:25pm EDT

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican ferry company Baja Ferries said on Tuesday it hopes to close a deal to buy troubled French ferry operator SNCM before November or December.

SNCM (Societé Nationale Corse-Méditerranée), which runs routes from cities on France's Mediterranean coast to Corsica and northern Africa, has accrued losses of about 250 million euros ($340.38 million) from 2001 to 2013.

In May, Baja said it was in talks with French transport firm Transdev about buying its 66 percent stake in SNCM.

Oscar Ruano, director of Baja Ferries, told Reuters the company would concentrate on routes between Marseille, Corsica and north Africa, but could also expand to more ports in northern Africa, such as in Morocco.

"We're hoping to (close the acquisition) toward the end of the year," he said, adding that Baja Ferries would try to lower SNCM's labor costs.

Ruano did not give details about how the company will finance the purchase. He also did not disclose the size of the deal, but said for Baja Ferries, which has annual revenue of some $160 million, SNCM's business would represent $225 million in sales each year.

Baja Ferries is part of Paris-based Unishipping, a privately owned shipping group, and operates a Puerto Rico-Dominican Republic ferry, routes in Mexico's Sea of Cortez and in the Caribbean.

Transdev is a unit of environmental services group Veolia and is jointly held with state-owned Caisse des depots (CDC).

(Reporting by Tomas Sarmiento; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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