The Court of Auditors doubts Renfe's assessment of its merchandise subsidiary

The Court of Auditors suspects that Renfe has inflated the valuation of its merchandise subsidiary.

The Court of Auditors doubts Renfe's assessment of its merchandise subsidiary

The Court of Auditors suspects that Renfe has inflated the valuation of its merchandise subsidiary. The supervisory body explains in its latest annual report on State accounting, referring to the 2020 financial year, that there is great "uncertainty" regarding the appraisal of assets, both material and intangible, that the railway operator has made. Some assets that for Renfe have a book value of 353.5 million euros and that according to the Court of Auditors "could be overvalued".

The institution recalls that there is an impairment of these assets caused by "continued operating losses in recent years." In addition, it calls attention to the public company by stating that neither the operator nor its merchandise subsidiary has carried out an "impairment test", which prevents an accurate valuation of this company.

Sources from the railway operator assure for their part that "the auditors have been reflecting this same exception for a few years". Renfe explains that its estimates are based on the total book value of the assets of its freight subsidiary and it also trusts that with the arrival of one or several industrial partners, activity will increase, traffic will grow and "consequently, it will be revalued the assets."

The truth is that the report of the supervisory body, published just a few weeks ago, comes at a decisive moment for the search for this industrial partner. Renfe officially announced during the month of April that it was opening a competitive procedure to select one or more companies with which to ally in the freight and logistics business. The public company is aware of the deterioration of its subsidiary and how complex it would be to maintain it under current conditions, which is why it ensures that this search project is "strategic" and "the basis for the future sustainability of the merchandise business."

So far, more than 30 companies have shown interest in the project, including three large European public operators, three large shipping companies and a large logistics company. Renfe has sent all of them the specifications of the project and now the interested parties have until July 1 to present a definitive offer.

The plans go through studying these offers for a few weeks and raising the final candidates to the board of directors that will be held on July 25. At least three projects or all those that obtain a score of 50 points in the contest.

an open project

Depending on the characteristics of these finalist projects, Renfe will divest itself of some activities or others of its subsidiary. You could even choose two different projects, each with an activity and both owned 50% by the public company. In addition to the assets necessary to set up these new companies, Renfe will transfer the goodwill to these companies.

The idea is to draw up a definitive document that will serve as a reference for the final presentation of offers and the choice of the partner. With these deadlines, the operator hopes to bring a proposal to the Council of Ministers at the end of 2023.

With this plan, Renfe seeks to make profitable a division that has been making losses for several years, within a market, that of rail freight transport, which has a share of close to 5% compared to road transport. In addition, it intends to take advantage of the pull that electronic commerce is having in Spain after the pandemic, which has further boosted the logistics business.

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