* Sole bidder offers roughly 200 mln euros
* Privatisation risks legal challenges from former bidders
* CFR Marfa sale is key pledge under IMF aid deal
(Recasts with conclusion of sale, adds tender winner, transport
By Luiza Ilie
BUCHAREST, June 20 Romania sold rail freight
carrier CFR Marfa to sole bidder Grup Feroviar Roman (GFR) after
hours of talks, sealing a deal whose failure could have
threatened a 5 billion euro ($6.7 billion) International
Monetary Fund (IMF) aid deal.
The privatisation of CFR Marfa was a requirement of the IMF
agreement designed to shore up Romania's finances and stabilise
the leu currency, but the sale has been hit by one problem after
Earlier on Thursday, Transport Minister Relu Fenechiu said
GFR had made an offer but tacked on conditions that required
"After seven hours of negotiations ... we can declare a
winner in the tender to privatise CFR Marfa," Fenechiu later
told reporters. He said GFR will pay roughly 200 million euros
for a majority stake in CFR Marfa, withdrawing a condition to
pay in instalments.
The process is still complicated by the possibility of legal
challenges from two bidders who had pulled out of the tender.
U.S.-based OmniTRAX and a consortium made of Austria's
Donau-Finanz and Romania's Transferoviar Grup said they withdrew
because short deadlines made it impossible to assess CFR Marfa.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta defended the tender. "I don't
expect everybody to be satisfied," he told reporters. "The
process was as transparent as could be."
It was unclear whether the IMF will say Romania has met its
obligations under the aid deal or whether it will agree another
The IMF declined to comment on Thursday, but Daniel Hewitt,
emerging Europe economist at Barclays Capital, said it would be
difficult for the IMF to say Romania has failed in its
obligations because it has made progress in other areas.
"From the IMF's point of view, they need a better reason to
flunk them (Romania)," Hewitt said.
The European Union's second-poorest economy has required IMF
aid since 2009. Romania has not drawn on funds from the current
aid agreement, but the deal was crucial for its financial
Successive cabinets have made great strides in lowering the
budget deficit to below the EU's 3 percent threshold, but all
have repeatedly delayed asset sales and reforms of state-owned
($1 = 0.7461 euros)
(Editing by David Goodman and David Holmes)