A £3 BILLION BUYING SPREE in the European postal market is planned by the Post Office, with the aim of establishing a commanding bridgehead in every EU state by 2008. The strategy has been designed to take full advantage of the greater commercial freedom conferred on the PO by the government's Postal Services Bill, published at the end of January.

PO chief executive John Roberts told The Observer that he intends to build a 'major presence' in mainland Europe and Scandinavia before liberalisation of the EU postal market - which starts in 2002 with the reduc-tion of state letterpost monopolies and will conclude in 2008 with the possible abolition of all restrictions. Said Roberts: 'The thing that is important is that the EU is due to reduce the monopoly - and then perhaps get rid of it by 2008. You are really looking at that eight year gap to get your act together.' Asked how much was in the acquisition war chest, Roberts responded: '£3 billion would be realistic.'