Bpost at risk of losing newspaper contract

Shares in Belgium's national postal company, Bpost, fell by 12 per cent on Monday following reports that it was in danger of losing out on a new contract to distribute newspapers and magazines. The federal government's cabinet will discuss the new contract on Monday afternoon.

According to the newspapers De Tijd and L'Echo, the government's Economy ministry is recommending that the newspaper contract be awarded to competitors PPP and Proximy. Shares in Bpost fell by around 12 per cent on Monday morning in response.

The price tag attached to the contract has long been criticised and has since been reduced from 175 to 125 million euros a year. Bpost is alleged to have made illegal market agreements in the past to ensure it retained the contract.

The government ordered a new tender procedure, resulting in three candidates. An assessment concluded that the distribution of newspapers should be awarded to PPP and the distribution of magazines to Proximy.

Any loss of the newspaper contract would be "tremendously bad news" for Bpost and threaten jobs at the company, unions have warned.

"There are 4,500 people at Bpost involved in the whole process of delivering newspapers, or up to 1,500 full-time employees. The loss of the contract would not be good news for employment," said Geert Cools, general secretary of the socialist government union ACOD.



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