The announced Ax Day in Bpost immediately caused a decline in stock market share on Monday morning. Investors were at the end of last week across the time I learned that it was not PPP and rival Proximy that would win the new newspaper and magazine distribution contract. Belgian and French delivery companies were the top candidates in the tender released by FPS Economy.
A loss would be a huge blow to Bpost. Until now, it was usually the trusty old postman who put your newspaper or magazine in the mailbox. According to unions, the jobs of 4,500 employees are at risk. Bpost also threatens significant financial suffering. The newspaper’s contract is worth 125 million euros annually.
Senior federal ministers gathered on Monday to tie the political knot. Several government sources said in the period leading up to the meeting on It was difficult for the government to deviate from the tender. This must comply with strict European regulations. However, the Prime Minister and his deputies eventually parted ways without making a decision. The hot potato was moved to a technical one work group.
Too many fears
The technical aspects of the bid will be explained further in the working group. The social and economic impact on Bpost will also be determined. The decision, according to government sources, came mainly at Ekolo’s insistence. Ecolo itself has heard that there are still many concerns about the quality of newspaper and magazine distribution, and about the impact on the number and quality of jobs.
The decision on the newspaper contract is very sensitive. At the end of 2022, the Belgian Competition Authority (BMA) decided that the original tender – won by Bpost – may have involved a conflict of interest. Later, the audit showed that Bpost, publishers DPG Media and Mediahuis and distributor PPP may have entered into illegal market agreements to ensure Bpost won the contract.
It later emerged that Bpost had also kept invoices for other government contracts artificially high. Due to malpractices, CEO Dirk Theres was forced to resign.
Crying for help
Liberals see the Bpost case as an opportunity to move forward with the privatization of mail delivery. Left-wing government parties want to protect employment in government-owned companies as much as possible. It is expected that PPP and Proximy will be able to take over some, but not all, of Bpost’s employees. Moreover, it is not yet clear whether the quality of jobs can be guaranteed. Unions are concerned about this.
Also playing a role is a cry for help from Lapresse.be, the trade association for French-speaking publishers. In particular, it fears that the quality of newspaper distribution will decline if it is converted to public-private partnerships. The public-private partnership currently provides part of newspaper distribution in cities. Subscribers in Brussels in particular are said to have bad experiences with this.
In one year, more than 30,000 complaints were received about newspapers that were not delivered or were delivered too late. “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to the Belgian press,” says chairman François Le Houde. No libre.
In any case, the government cannot postpone this decision for a long time. The new newspaper franchise should take effect on July 1, 2024 at the latest.
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