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MSC and Renfe Mercancías Join Forces in Transformative Rail Freight Deal

MSC and Renfe Mercancías Join Forces in Transformative Rail Freight Deal
photo: Renfe; RAILTARGET Archive/MSC and Renfe Mercancías Join Forces in Transformative Rail Freight Deal
29 / 09 / 2023

In a significant stride toward reinvigorating Spain’s rail freight industry, the state-owned rail carrier, Renfe Mercancías, has chosen the logistics branch of the Swiss shipping magnate, MSC, as its strategic ally. This decision culminated after a rigorous vetting process that saw interest from 30 prominent companies. The partnership will birth a new 50/50 joint venture, effectively bringing all assets and close to 1,000 employees of Renfe Mercancías under the new umbrella. It’s a brave new direction for Renfe Mercancías, which has wrestled with financial turbulence, recording losses upward of EUR 400 million since 2011.

This alliance is more than just a lifeline for Renfe Mercancías, which ended 2022 with a debt of EUR 38 million. By integrating with Medlog and railway operator Medway, a subsidiary of MSC, the joint venture is poised to consolidate its presence in the Iberian Peninsula, thereby reinforcing the regional rail freight ecosystem. Furthermore, MSC’s prior acquisition of Portuguese operator CP Cargo, evolving into Medway, serves as a testament to its European ambitions, already leaving footprints in countries like Spain, Italy, and Belgium. As a cherry on top, Renfe Mercancías recently received environmental incentives from the Spanish Ministry of Transport, amplifying the joint venture's potential.

Yet, this collaboration is more than a mere business transaction; it’s a reflection of a larger European conundrum. With public rail freight entities like France’s Fret SNCF and Germany’s DB Cargo grappling with financial challenges and regulatory scrutiny, the path forward for the sector is under debate. While some nations like Switzerland are veering toward complete state ownership, as seen with SBB Cargo, Renfe Mercancías' alliance with MSC brings to light another model – leaning on industry stalwarts through public-private partnerships.