Archive for December 19th, 2008

PKP Cargo on verge of bankruptcy

Friday, 19 December 2008

BTWT Exclusive


Wojchiech Balczun, Chairman PKP Cargo in April,
Photo Railway Market Forum

(Click to see photo in its original context (Polish) on the pages of Railway Market Forum.)

PKP Cargo has advised railway trade unions that it is heading for a loss of nearly 200 million PLN in 2008 and that, unless drastic economy measures are taken, the losses will rise to some 500 million PLN in 2009. As recently as April this year, PKP Cargo Chairman, Wojchiech Balczun was telling delegates at a conference organised by Railway Market Forum, that he intended to turn PKP Cargo into a modern logistics company. He set himself the task of writing a strategic plan which would take Cargo forward for the next 10-15 years and prepare it for a floatation on the Warsaw Stock Market in a couple years time.

The problem was that while Balczun and his board were thinking about writing a plan, Cargo’s ‘open access’ competitors, companies such as CTL, PCC, Lotus and PTK, had creamed of 22% of the most lucrative freight traffic on Poland’s Railways. As oil, gas and petrochemicals freight were lost to the new operators, PKP retrenched to the markets it knew best: coal and iron ore. Enter the world financial crisis stage in October and ArcelorMittal are telegramming Cargo that they have closed down their giant coke oven in Nowa Huta, Cracow and that are in no position to accept the iron ore trains that are beginning to stack on the Polish border. PKP Cargo’s management board see the only way forward as abandoning their investment plans and introducing a drastic cost-cutting exercise involving the cutting of benefits to railway workers and sacking 5,000 staff.

BTWT have an alternative plan which would involve sacking the entire PKP Cargo management board, selling 33% of Cargo to a modern railway freight operator, giving 33% to Cargo’s employees and keeping 33% in the state treasury. Then encouraging all three parties to hammer out the best way forward, bearing in mind the collapse of the global economy. Such a solution would be anathma to all advocates of minimum government intervention, maximum deregulation and leaving everything to market forces. However, as governments around the world try a range of interventionist measures in an attempt to stave off the global financial collapse, the remaining disciples of Milton Freidman are going the way of the dodo.