January 29, 2016 / 9:34 PM / 2 years ago

U.S. rail regulator releases letters backing CP's Norfolk Southern bid

CHICAGO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. federal rail regulator that would have to review any merger of Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern Corp made public a number of letters on Friday from railroad customers backing the deal.

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) posted letters from half a dozen companies backing the bid, adding to similar letters it released earlier this week.

This comes after a number of rail customers wrote to the regulator asking the STB to reject a merger, arguing that it would lead to underinvestment in Norfolk Southern’s network and cause a flurry of mergers that would result in an anti-competitive North American duopoly.

A number of prominent U.S. Democrats have also urged the rejection of CP’s bid.

The Canadian company in mid-November disclosed its $28 billion offer to buy Norfolk Southern.

Norfolk Southern has rejected the Canadian railroad’s advances, setting the stage for possible proxy battle.

The letters posted by the STB on Friday include one from EACOM Timber Corp, which operates sawmills in Quebec and Ontario.

EACOM’s vice president for sales and marketing, Stephane Boileau, wrote that a merger “would create a transcontinental railroad with the scale and reach to deliver improved levels of service to us.”

The release of the letters comes as both railroads seek to persuade shareholders and other stakeholders that theirs is the best solution.

Canadian Pacific has met with more than a dozen of the largest shipping organizations with offices in the Washington area, a spokesman said.

“We are continuing to reach out to all key stakeholders with the facts of the proposed combination,” spokesman Martin Cej wrote in an email, “which outweigh the misleading opinions being promoted by critics who remain comfortable with the status quo.”

Earlier this week Norfolk Southern unveiled a five-year cost-cutting plan, which many analysts see as a bid to thwart Canadian Pacific’s takeover attempt. (Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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