DWS, CDPQ Near 3 Billion-Euro Deal for Rail Lessor Ermewa

DWS Group and Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec are nearing a deal to acquire French state railway company SNCF’s leasing unit Ermewa Group, people familiar with the matter said.

DWS, an asset manager controlled by Deutsche Bank AG, and the Canadian pension fund are in advanced negotiations on a potential acquisition of the business, the people said. A deal could value Ermewa at more than 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion), according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information.

An agreement could be finalized as soon as this week, the people said. Discussions are ongoing, and talks could drag on longer or fall apart, they said. Representatives for DWS, CDPQ and SNCF declined to comment.

Ermewa, based in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, was founded in the 1950s to help transport wine by train. It now leases railcars and other bulk container tanks for the movement of industrial and agricultural products.

The company generated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of 258 million euros in 2019, according to its website. SNCF acquired a 10% stake in the company in 1992, building up to full ownership over roughly the next two decades.

Any money raised from a sale of Ermewa would help boost SNCF’s finances at a critical time for the rail operator. It has relied on a 4.1 billion-euro capital infusion from the French state to get through a steep slump in traffic during the coronavirus pandemic.

A sale would add to $57 billion of transactions involving French companies this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s up more than a third on the same period in 2020, the data show. This month Veolia Environnement SA ended a long and bitter takeover battle in the country when it agreed to acquire water rival Suez SA in a 13 billion-euro deal.

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