The German cabinet has finally approved plans to start privatising the country’s state-owned postal and telephone services, but the exercise will not start until 1996. The Deutsche Bundespost Telekom telecommunications agency, the Deutsche Bundespost Postdienst mail service and the Deutsche Bundespost Postbank will be turned into three separate companies in 1995 that will initially be owned by the state. The government plans to start selling off a first tranche of shares in Telekom, worth around $8,600m, in 1996 in what is expected to be one of the world’s largest privatisations. The others will be sold later. Cabinet approval marks the start of the legislative process after protracted an obstructive negotiations over several years between the government, the opposition Social Democrats and the postal unions worried about the future of the 630,000 Bundespost jobs – the postal side is hideously overmanned and chronically inefficient, losing vast sums of money every year while delivering a service that citizens say is much too patchy for it to be possible to distribute a daily product like Computergram by mail. The federal government will keep a majority stake in Telekom and Postdienst for at least five years, but may sell off up to 49% of each. A holding company will control the government’s stake in each of the three companies but it will have no direct control over their day-to-day operations. Outlining future strategy, Telekom chief executive Helmut Ricke said in a speech in Frankfurt that survival of the fittest was the dominant principle in telecommunications. In the medium term, the world market will comprise six to eight global players, he said.
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