German cartel office not ready to approve road toll

BERLIN, July 31 (Reuters) - Germany's cartel office said on Wednesday it was not yet ready to approve a multi-billion euro contract, awarded last month to a consortium led by Deutsche Telekom, to build and run a new electronic road toll system.

The German Transport Ministry awarded the contract to Deutsche Telekom , DaimlerChrysler AG and French road operator Cofiroute, a unit of construction firm Vinci SA , late last month.

But the rival bidder, Ages Mautsysteme, which comprises Vodafone , filling station chains Aral and Shell and which runs the existing manual road toll system, challenged the decision at the cartel office, which scrutinises how the government contracts out jobs.

The transport ministry asked the cartel office earlier this month to speed up its decision, saying it wanted to conclude talks with the Telekom consortium about the new system as quickly as possible.

Analysts have said although the contract is not overwhelming in size, it could lead to further business for Deutsche Telekom's software and systems integration unit T-Systems.

From next year the German transport ministry expects to collect 3.4 billion euros ($3.32 billion) in tolls annually from trucks rolling over German highways, up to 20 percent of which could go to the road toll operator over the next 12 years.

A spokesman for the cartel office said a decision would be taken on August 23.