So the cat is finally out of the bag.
After almost monastic silence from PSA Peugeot Citroen division, Gefco, Russian Railways or RZD confirmed to me yesterday (20 September) it had entered into sole negotiations to acquire 75% of the French logistics operation.

Mind you, this came a day earlier than expected. Talking to French union, Force Ouvriere's general secretary, Patrice Clos in Paris - who just happens to be on the Works Council at Gefco - he indicated the announcement would be made today.

But what's a day? Well, the deluge of speculation may have hastened the matter along a little, after what seems an age of talking between the parties, firmly behind closed doors of course.

Extracting information from any of the sides involved - excluding the unions - has been a process of monumental stalling with very little more able to be garnered from either entity.

The unions are worried of course. And quite apart from their default position of concern on any change in status - they're almost required to adopt a sceptical stance - there is a general nervousness that nothing has been said on the staffing levels from either side. 

Meanwhile, the Force Ouvriere (FO) general secretary highlighted his view PSA was selling the "family silver," but surely the French automaker is between a rock and a hard place?

Consuming a gargantuan pile of Euros every month, the EUR800m or so it will pocket from its new Russian friends will come in very handy indeed, but as Clos pointed out to me: "PSA is burning EUR200m per month - EUR800m is quite quick to burn - [but] will allow them to breathe a bit."

That "quick to burn" EUR800m will need to be hoarded wisely against future storms - of which there seem to be no end in sight in Europe - while a further fire sale of buildings apart from PSA's sale and lease back of its prestigious avenue de la Grande Armee just off the Champs Elysées - is sure to be on the cards.

FO believes RZD's huge investment is the largest such deal by a Russian company into the French logistics sector. Writing this from the UK, we've been extremely used to our own 'family silver' being eyed up by a United Nations of overseas interests, but apart from a natural sadness at seeing UK assets transferring to overseas operations, the great British public is really only concerned with does its day to day lot improve under new ownership, domestic or otherwise. 

But for France, this is something really quite seismic. The country just isn't used to its large assets transferring to overseas control and there appears to be a natural twitchiness about the Russians.

I've tried with a colossal lack of success to persuade the French President's office at his smart Elysée residence to offer up some view on the situation, but have been met with an impenetrable wall of silence.

But even given PSA's dire financial situation, the RZD cash injection, on paper, at least could offer real benefits to both sides.

Take this from Russian Railways yesterday: "The acquisition of Gefco would help Russian Railways to promote the attractiveness of transit cargo flows along the Europe - Asia transcontinental route," an RZD statement sent to just-auto from Moscow said.

"Russian Railways has recently undertaken a significant amount of work to be in a position to offer competitive transportation services along this route. The next logical step would be the development of the sales network for transit transcontinental transportation services via an international logistics company."

That 'Europe-Asia transcontinental route' has been on many people's wish list for a significant amount of time. The ability to transport large amounts of goods safely, securely and quickly from west to east and vice versa without relying on immense sea voyages, does appear very attractive.

PSA's extensive know-how coupled with a genuine desire by Russian Railways to lift its logistics game - as well as the not-inconsequential double incentive of the Winter Olympic Games in 2014 and the Football World Cup in 2018 - can provide a real impetus to RZD becoming a major player.

The unions will retain their concerns and hold both parties' feet to the fire in order to reassure themselves there will not be wholesale redundancies, but this marriage seems to be one of much more than convenience.

And at some point, the French government must surely make its position known - PSA is of course at liberty to act as it sees fit - but French politicians have never been able to resist pronouncing on what they see as an intrinsically Gallic view of life.

Napoleon's expected triumphant entrance to Moscow in 1812 famously foundered - in part - on logistical grounds. Exactly two hundred years later, a Russian logistics company is poised to enter Paris in a spectacular demonstration of how far Moscow has peacefully advanced.

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