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Cabinet cancels tenders for brown coal mining companies

The Czech Cabinet on Wednesday canceled a tender for the sale of two brown coal mining companies – Severoceske doly (SCD) and Sokolovska uhelna (SU).

Cabinet gave the Industry and Trade Ministry until the end of the year to draft a course of action on the SCD sale. As for SU, it will enter exclusive talks with Sokolovska tezebni (a company formed by SU managers) on raising its bid.

“The government decided on the basis of bids which were all lower than the bottom end of the market estimate,” said Industry Minister Milan Urban following the Cabinet meeting. “The Cabinet also decided on the direct sale of SU and called on the suitor to negotiate the price. The talks will be held by the Industry and Finance Ministries by the middle of April at the latest.”

Sokolovska tezebni was the only bidder for SU, offering CZK 2.1 bn for the majority stake. Industry experts put the stake’s value between CZK 2.5 bn and CZK 5.5 bn. In the case of SCD, an inter-ministerial commission recommended the J&T financial group as the buyer, over Penta and the Appian Group.

J&T’s bid was CZK 6.83 bn for the 55 % stake. Expert opinion said the minimum price should be CZK 7.5 bn.

“The government repeatedly proves its inability to privatize state property under clear conditions, in a transparent way and with a goal to achieve the highest price,” Atlantik financni trhy analyst Jan Schiesser told the CTK news agency.

Earlier Wednesday, the web site Euro OnLine reported that the SCD sale had been stopped despite a recommendation from Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka that Cabinet launch exclusive talks with J&T.

Miners’ unions welcomed the news of the postponed sales. The miners had protested the elimination of CEZ, the national power utility, from the first round of the SCD tender and are pleased the company now has a chance to compete in a second tender.

(Interfax 5.iii.04)

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