The company that runs the Channel tunnel is “looking carefully” at bidding for the UK’s only dedicated high-speed rail line.
The move comes as Groupe Eurotunnel prepares to buy back the last of a series of financial instruments formed during the company’s complex 2007 restructuring.
Jacques Gounon, executive chairman, told the Financial Times he was undertaking the transaction partly to avoid problems with any bid for High Speed 1.
The line carries trains running at up to 300kph (186mph) on the 108km span between the Channel tunnel and St Pancras station in London.
High Speed 1, which cost £5.8bn to build, is likely to fetch between £1.5bn and £2.5bn, according to a person familiar with the situation.
The UK government – which has had the right to take control of the line since it bailed out the private companies that were building it in 1998 – took over London & Continental Railways, the line’s owner, on June 8.
It is expected to start selling parts of the business next year.
“I’m looking carefully at the High Speed 1 privatisation,” Mr Gounon said.
“If I want to have a simple, stable capital structure, it is because I don’t want some commentators to argue if there is High Speed 1 privatisation that my complex structure will be a legitimate reason for Eurotunnel not to tender.”
There would be clear advantages to having the tunnel and the line to London owned by the same company, Mr Gounon added.
One attraction would be the UK government’s guarantee of the revenue the high-speed domestic service would provide for the line.
The service is to be launched on a preview basis on Monday.
High Speed 1 is expected to be separated from LCR’s property assets and the company’s stake in Eurostar, the cross-Channel high-speed train service, during any sale.
The UK government said on Thursday it was close to concluding negotiations to turn Eurostar into a single company.
Eurostar has previously been run by separate French, British and Belgian companies.
Assuming that holders of the outstanding warrants created during its restructuring accept the offer, Eurotunnel will face a secure, stable future for the first time since the tunnel started operating in 1994.
Other potential bidders for High Speed 1 are likely to include infrastructure funds such as those run by Australia’s Macquarie, Citigroup’s Citi Infrastructure Investors and the Babcock & Brown European Infrastructure Fund.
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