Johannesburg - South Africa’s state-owned Transnet will next week announce General Electric as the preferred bidder to supply it with 465 rail diesel locomotives as part of a R35 billion program, two people familiar with the decision say.

The Johannesburg-based company and the Department of Public Enterprises, which oversees Transnet, yesterday said they will announce “one of the biggest infrastructure transactions in South Africa” on March 17.

They will also announce the preferred bidder to supply 599 electric locomotives, the people said, who asked not be identified because the decision hasn’t been made public.

Transnet plans to spend about 35 billion rand to buy the 1,064 locomotives over seven years, Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba said in October 2012.

The railway, ports and pipeline operator is spending 307 billion rand over the period as it seeks to improve export capacity to boost growth in Africa’s largest economy.

Transnet in 2012 agreed to pay China’s CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Co. 2.6 billion rand for 95 locomotives.

General Electric, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, has bid to supply diesel locomotives, spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said in an e-mailed response to questions.

She declined to comment further.

Transnet spokesman Mboniso Sigonyela declined to comment when contacted on his mobile phone today. - Bloomberg News