Eurostar is said to have signed a deal with its lenders to refinance hundreds of millions of pounds of debt as it looks to secure financial support from the UK government.
A group of banks, including Natwest, have agreed to refinance £400m of loans that were due to be repaid this summer, the Daily Telegraph reported. City sources told the newspaper that Eurostar shareholders were prepared to do “heavy lifting” by providing fresh capital for the company. But the rail firm is hoping to access state aid to help ensure its long-term future.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has previously pushed back against taxpayer support for Eurostar, saying it was “not our company to rescue”. But the company will argue that if it collapsed Britain would be left without a rail link under the English Channel for up to two years, according to the report. Government officials reportedly told Eurostar’s shareholders that the company’s debts needed to be refinanced before any state aid would be considered.
One potential measure could be export guarantees similar to those provided to British Airways, Rolls-Royce and Easyjet since the start of the pandemic.
The UK sold its stake in Eurostar for £750m in 2015 under David Cameron’s government. It is now majority owned by French rail company SNCF, as well as two pension funds.
In January the company appealed for a government bailout after the company’s finances were hit by a 95 per cent fall in passenger numbers.
The service is currently running just one service a day to both Paris and Amsterdam due to ongoing border controls.