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German Coalition Agrees Deutsche Bahn Privatisation

April 2008.

Top officials from Germany's ruling coalition sealed an agreement on Monday that paves the way for the privatisation of a quarter of state rail operator Deutsche Bahn before the end of this year, Reuters reports.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives (CDU/CSU) and her Social Democrat (SPD) partners agreed that 24.9 percent of Deutsche Bahn will be sold to private investors, officials said on the sidelines of talks in

Merkel has said the sale, expected to reap as much as 6 billion euros ($9.4 billion), will be a first step in the process of privatising the firm while the Social Democrats oppose selling further stakes.

Conservative parliamentary group leader Volker Kauder said it was an historic day. SPD leader Kurt Beck added: "The coalition has shown it is able to act."

The sale is due to be signed off in cabinet this week and then parliamentary groups will discuss it ahead of a decision in the lower house of parliament before the summer break.

The issue of privatising
Germany's last major state-owned enterprise has stirred controversy in recent years with opponents claiming service will deteriorate and Deutsche Bahn's workers will suffer.

Company management last week agreed with labour unions that there will not be any layoffs for the next 15 years as a result of the privatisation.

Deutsche Bahn, one of the biggest transport companies in the world, has annual revenues of around 30 billion euros and more than 220,000 staff.

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