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Government Chooses New Owners for Sokolovska Uhelna, OKD Mining Companies

The Czech Cabinet will sell the brown coal mining company Sokolovska uhelna (SU) to Sokolovska tezebni (ST), and the black coal mining company Ostravsko-karvinske doly (OKD) to its majority-owner Karbon Invest, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka announced Tuesday.

ST, a company established by SU managers, will pay CZK 2.6 bn for a 50 % stake in the brown coal mining firm.

Karbon Invest will pay CZK 2.25 bn for 46 % of OKD.

The sales are the result of controversial tenders. Critics charged both that the tenders were slanted in favor of the winning bidders and that the winning bids were too low. According to the UK’s Financial Times newspaper, the British power utility International Power (IP) plans to file a complaint with the European Commission (EC), claiming that it was blocked from acquiring two of the three coal mines up for sale.

According to Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban, Karbon Invest raised its original bid by over CZK 1 bn after exclusive talks with government.

ST raised its original bid by over CZK 500 mln, according to Sobotka.

Karbon Invest and ST both welcomed the Cabinet decision. Karbon Invest immediately announced plans to invest CZK 3 bn in OKD, while ST said it plans to participate in the development and growth of SU.

ST will now have to make a buyout offer to Metalimex, a Karbon Invest subsidiary, which owns a blocking minority in SU. Experts estimated the value of Metalimex’s 36 % stake at CZK 2 bn.

SU union chair Jan Smolka told Interfax workers were pleased with the results of the tender and believed the government’s choice was the best for the development and stability of the firm and the region as a whole.

Cabinet approved a plan to sell state stakes in two brown coal mining companies – SU and Severoceske doly (SCD) – last summer and launched the sales in October. In early March, the sale of SCD was cancelled and exclusive talks were launched with ST on the purchase of SU.

The OKD sale was launched in mid-November 2003, when the government granted Karbon Invest three months of exclusive talks.

(Interfax 26.iii.04)

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