UK transport company FirstGroup has put its rail freight unit up for sale, attracting several British and European bidders, according to the Financial Times.
The planned sale of GB Railfreight is part of the ongoing consolidation of Europe's rail freight industry that has seen companies sold at high valuations.
Among the reported bidders are SNCF, France's state-owned railway, Eurotunnel, the operator of the cross-Channel tunnel between the UK and France, and Freightliner, the UK's second largest rail freight company.
FirstGroup has been seeking to reduce its debt since its $3.6 billion acquisition of Laidlaw International, the owner of the Greyhound bus company in the United States, in 2007.
The European rail freight sector has seen several takeovers as companies seek to benefit from deregulation to create pan-continental networks.
Germany's Deutsche Bahn is the European market leader following a string of acquisitions in the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain and the UK where it bought EWS, the country's largest rail freight operator.
More recently, Deutsche Bahn bought a 49 percent stake in Italy's Ferrovie Nord Cargo and took control of PCC Logistics, Poland's largest private rail freight company.
SNCF has acquired the non-French rail freight operations of Veolia Transport. Eurotunnel acquired the firm's French operations.
Freightliner, the UK's largest rail transport of ocean containers, which was sold to Bahrain-based Arcapita for $520 million in 2008, has emerged as the most likely buyer of GB Railfreight.
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