THE PENTA financial group has sold its shares in the company PPC Investments, which includes Bratislava’s Steam-Gas Cycle (PPC), to company EI Group. The sale is still pending approval by the Antitrust Office (PMÚ), the Sme daily reported on its website on April 30.

According to the media, the sale raises some questions.

“Our priorities are in other sectors and projects on which we want to focus,” said Jaroslav Haščák, managing partner of Penta, as quoted by Sme, adding that this includes mostly health care, financial services, retail, real estate development and machine manufacturing.

The Pravda daily, however, wrote that the reason may also be the expiration of the agreement with the Bratislavská Teplárenská heating plant at the beginning of the year, which resulted in a drop in profits. Based on the agreement, signed at the time PPC was owned by the state, PPC was supplying Bratislavská Teplárenská with heat.

Penta however did not agree with the heating plant on further supplies, which means that PPC will now produce only electricity, Sme wrote.

EI Group belongs to Istroenergo International, which resides in Levice. According to Sme, it has 11 shareholders who are also part of the structural bodies of the company.

“It is too small of a company for such a transaction,” a source that did not want to be identified told Sme. “Somebody either entered it, or sent money through it.”

Another source says that without the supplies of heat to the state-run heating plant, PPC does not have such value and a small company can buy it.

Sme wrote that also businessman Jozef Brhel, who is believed to have close links with the ruling Smer party, was interested in buying PPC. According to Pravda, it is not clear whether he stands behind the firm.

Juraj Puchý, Brhel’s media representative, however, told Sme that the businessman has nothing to do with the transaction.

PPC in Bratislava has been associated with several scandals in the past. At the end of 2012 Economy Minister Tomáš Malatinský introduced a draft law that should have improved the business conditions for firms producing both heat and electricity, for example in steam-gas power plants. Part of the opposition said that the law would allow Penta to receive a subsidy. Both Malatinský and Penta rejected the claim, as reported by Pravda.

Former interior minister Daniel Lipšic even wanted to cancel the privatisation of PPC, which Penta bought from the National Property Fund (FNM) in 2004 for SK2 billion (€66 million). According to the motion he submitted to the General Prosecutor’s Office in March 2012, the FNM permitted the sale despite knowing that this would cause a loss of SK7-15 billion (€232-500 million) to the state-run electricity provider, Slovenské Elektrárne, because of a disadvantageous contract it had with PPC that was valid until 2013.

“This is one of the reasons for the current high prices of electricity in Slovakia,” Lipšic stated, as quoted by the TASR newswire back in March 2012.

Source: Sme, Pravda, TASR

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

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