Veolia in Talks to Sell Ailing Bus Unit

French conglomerate Veolia continues its disengagement from the Israeli transportation business.

French conglomerate Veolia is continuing its disengagement from the Israeli transportation business.

Last week the firm agreed to sell to Egged its 25% share in the company that operates the Jerusalem light rail system, and now Veolia is in advanced negotiations to sell part of its public transportation Connex bus division to the Afikim group.

Such a sale would require approval of the Antitrust Authority and the Transportation Ministry.

The negotiations started after the international firm decided to close down its transportation businesses all over the globe and sell off its operations in the sector. Veolia's Israeli transportation business is estimated to be losing NIS 20 million a year.

Representatives of Veolia have been meeting with various companies in the public transportation sector for months in an attempt to find a buyer.

After the company was unsuccessful in finding a buyer for its entire Israeli operations, along with a chunk of its eastern European business, Veolia decided to take a new tack and look for a partner to operate the transport business here.

The conditions of the sale to Afikim have already been agreed upon, TheMarker has learned. Afikim is owned by Amnon Sela through his Amnon Mesilot group. Afikim runs public transport lines in the Samaria region. Amnon Mesilot also has real estate investments.

Veolia Environnement Israel, the parent company for all Veolia's Israeli activities, started operations in Israel in 1993. The company employs some 2,000 people in Israel and has four subsidiaries: Veolia Water Israel, Veolia Transportation Israel, Veolia Environmental Services Israel and Dalkia Energy and Services Israel. Veolia Transportation's buses operate under the Connex name.

Veolia's other operations in Israel show a profit and the company is interested in expanding its Israeli operations in water, energy and environmental services.

Veolia is one of the largest private public transportation providers in the country, after the the Egged and Dan bus cooperatives. Veolia operates some 300 buses in the Lod, Modi'in, Ashdod and Tiberias areas. It also operates the line from Jerusalem to Bnei Brak.

Veolia declined to comment.

Emil Salman