May 21, 2018 / 6:52 PM / a month ago

France to absorb 35 billion euros rail operator SNCF debt: Les Echos

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government plans to absorb about 35 billion euros ($41.20 billion) of national railway operator SNCF’s SNCF.UL debt burden of around 47 billion euros as part of planned reforms to SNCF, French business daily Les Echos said on Monday.

A logo is seen on a TGV high-speed train at Montparnasse railway station during a nationwide strike by French SNCF railway workers in Paris, France, April 29, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The plan, which would see the government take on chunks of SNCF’s debt in 2020 and 2022, will be announced by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to rail unions on Friday, the newspaper said, citing unnamed sources.

A spokesman for the government declined to comment.

The government has previously said it would start taking over a substantial part of SNCF’s debt from 2020 as part of the reform, which will change SNCF’s status and aims to prepare it for competition, but had not said how much it would absorb.

Unionized workers of the debt-ridden state-run company have been carrying out rolling strikes since the start of April, downing tools for two out of every five days until June 28, in protest against the changes.

The rail workers are expected to be joined by civil servants and energy sector workers on Tuesday for another day of mass protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to liberalize the French economy.

Reporting by Myriam Rivet and Bate Felix; Additional reporting by Marine Pennetier

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