In what will be the last major privatization in Europe's biggest economy, Deutsche Bahn will offer investors a 24.9 percent stake in its main freight and passenger train activities unit, known as DB Mobility Logistics. But the company, which has stakes in several foreign passenger and freight operators outside Germany, including Britain's Chiltern Railways, will retain full control of the country's railway network and train stations.
Chief executive Hartmut Mehdorn will kick off a two-week "investor roadshow" designed to attract buyers for the shares on October 13, when the period for private investors to sign up will begin, and the shares will trade for the first time on October 27. Experts say that the listing could generate €5 to €8 billion ( $7 to $12 billion) in proceeds.
In view of the current financial turmoil, with Frankfurt's blue chip DAX 30 stock index down by more than a fifth since January 1, there had been speculation that the listing would be delayed until markets picked up.
The Financial Times Deutschland on Friday cited financial sources as saying that going ahead with the listing at such a turbulent time could slash Berlin's hoped-for proceeds by at least 10 percent. But both Deutsche Bahn and the government were adamant that the IPO express would leave on time.
"Despite the tense situation on the international financial markets, we are confident as we move into the critical phase of the IPO, because we have received a great deal of positive feedback in our talks with investors up to this point," Mehdorn said in a statement Friday. "The company's unique geographic position in the heart of Europe, combined with its global reach in the logistics business, brings about attractive growth potential," the statement said.
Privatizations in Germany do not have a happy history, however, most notably in the case of the former telephone monopoly Deutsche Telekom, privatized in 1996. Private investors snapped up Deutsche Telekom shares, but got burned when the shares plummeted with the bursting of the "tech bubble" a few years later.