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Eurotunnel to sell ferries to DFDS

Eurotunnel is selling its cross-channel ferries to Denmark's DFDS for an undisclosed sum following a legal tussle with UK competition authorities.

The company announced earlier this year that it was to seek a buyer for its MyFerryLink Dover-to-Calais service after it failed to overturn a ruling by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that it should not own the business.

That ruling was successfully challenged at the Court of Appeal last month, but the CMA said it would try to take the case to the Supreme Court, and Eurotunnel pressed ahead with its plans to sell.

"The Eurotunnel group has decided to sell its maritime activity, MyFerryLink, as the conditions necessary to develop freely did not exist," it said today.

MyFerryLink operates two passenger ferries, the Rodin and the Berlioz, and one freight ship, Nord Pas-de-Calais. It offers up to 16 passenger sailings between Dover and Calais every day.

Eurotunnel said it regretted that SCOP SeaFrance, the co-operative company operating the route on its behalf "has not had the support it needed to be able to present a takeover proposal".

The group confirmed "that it holds a binding offer from DFDS for a let to buy sale of the ferries, Rodin and Berlioz". Eurotunnel asked for a competition ruling to be lifted in relation to Nord Pas-de-Calais so that it can continue operating.

MyFerryLink has about a tenth share of the cross-Channel market. Last year it carried 400,000 trucks and 350,000 cars.

Eurotunnel bought the ferries from the collapsed SeaFrance business in 2012 for 65 million euros (£51 million), but regulators said the merged firm gave Eurotunnel 48.5% of the cross-Channel passenger trade.

The company argued that its actions in 2012 were the purchase of assets rather than a merger with SeaFrance. It has called the ruling against it "illogical" and said the move reduced cross-Channel competition.

It said the CMA "should not oppose the completion" of the sale to DFDS "which will lead to two maritime operators of equal importance".

MyFerryLink competes against P&O and DFDS Seaways and has not turned a profit since it began operations in August 2012. It employs 600 staff, with 100 based at Dover.

The CMA's chairman of the Eurotunnel inquiry group, Alasdair Smith, said in January: "Our first priority remains to protect the interests of passengers and freight customers.

"With two of the operators on the Dover-Calais route making substantial losses, it remains our view that the current level of competition on the route is unsustainable and likely to lead to the exit of a competitor.

"Having one of only two ferry operators owned by the competing rail link would be bad for customers."

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