The National Audit Office (NAO) has said the sale of the government’s 40 per cent stake in Eurostar did represent value for money for the UK taxpayer.
The sale, which raised £757 million, was “run effectively” and generated proceeds well in excess of the government’s initial valuations, according to the NAO.
Although largely complementary of the government’s handling of the transaction, the NAO did acknowledge that the taxpayer’s investment in Eurostar services was much higher than the proceeds of the sale, estimating that Eurostar had benefitted from £3 billion of public money.
NAO said the government had considered delaying the sale until after the introduction of Eurostar’s new higher-capacity e320 train sets because of the boost in profits they were forecast to generate. The earlier completion of the transaction was driven by a political desire to complete the sale before the general election, NAO believes.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “The government prepared well for the sale of Eurostar and the sale process was run effectively.
“I regard the sale as value for money. This case illustrates some general lessons for government as it embarks on an unprecedented asset sales programme forecast to exceed £62 billion over this Parliament.
“These lessons include: the need for detailed business cases in support of the decision to sell; objective and robust valuations to decide if, and when, to sell; and getting good value from advisers.”
The 40 per cent stake was sold to Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Hermes Infrastructure for £585.1 million. An additional £172 million was paid by Eurostar for the UK government’s preferential share.