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Business News of Tuesday, 12 April 2005

Source: Graphic

United Rail Talks Resume on April 25

TALKS between the Government of Ghana and United Rail, a British consortium, on the management and rehabilitation of the rail sector will resume on April 25, 2005, after a three-week break.

The talks, which began last month, were suspended at the instance of the team from United Rail to enable them to meet with their superiors to thrash out some issues raised by the government team which was led by Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi.

The issues included operational funds and the government?s proposal to own equity shares in the company.

In an interview in Accra, Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said the government team was now ready to meet with its British counterparts to finalise the deal.

He said the government was committed to ensuring that the rail sector was revived to solve most of the transportation problems in the country.

Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said the British team had written to the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) demanding a formal proposal on the government?s equity share, adding that ?this is being worked out immediately?.

Reacting to speculations in some of the media to the effect that United Rail did not exist and was, therefore, another scam, he said the government team and the DIC had done all the necessary checks to ensure that the company existed and gave the address of the company as United Rail, 205 Greenwich High Road, Greenwich, London, UK; telephone, 0044 (0)208 293 5999 and fax, 0044 (0)208 293 7124/9123.

Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said the evaluation committee of the DIC had done enough checks on the addresses provided and was in no doubt as to their credibility.

He said ?this is a crucial deal which the government would not want to toy with?, adding that ?the speculations will not stop us from pursuing something that is in the interest of the nation?.

Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said the government was in no way committed to United Rail but was only dealing with it on strict business terms.

He said the concerns of the government would be pursued one after the other, adding that should United Rail be unable to meet the expectations of the government during the discussions, the only option left would be to withdraw from the talks.

The minister said the company was a limited liability company incorporated in Ghana under the Companies Code, Act 1963, with registration number CA-10-118 and was a wholly-owned subsidiary of United Rail (International) Limited, registered in the UK with company number 05066976.

The shareholding structure of United Rail is Holtrade (UK) Limited UK, 50 per cent, while the remaining stake is owned by Tracked Limited, also of the UK. Railroad Development Corporation of the USA (RDC) will be contracted to provide the expertise for operations on the railway. Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said Holtrade, for instance, had good knowledge of the current operations of the Ghana Railway Company (GRC) in terms of its strength, weaknesses and potential and noted that over the past 10 years, it had partnered GRC on many projects. He mentioned some of the projects as the rehabilitation of the Henschel locomotives, which was funded by the World Bank, the supply of 90 mineral wagons, track maintenance and upgrade, including locomotive maintenance, funded by the GRC, the supply of breakdown crane and rehabilitation of 36 coaches with funds from the Japanese and German governments respectively.

Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said Tracked was a holding company involved in the financing of large international projects, with focus on Africa.

He said the company had a large investment in mining, timber and agriculture and indicated that ?Tracked management provides experience of having operated companies of a similar size to GRC in Africa for at least 10 years".

Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said the team from the Ghana side would do another due diligence after the negotiations to ensure that the partnership arrangement of the company still existed.

?We want to be doubly sure to avoid anything that can mar the whole process,? he added.