BUSINESS IN SHORT

Sieť proposes against Russians

PRIVATE owners of firms should not be allowed to sell their shares to whomever they like based on a proposal by the extra-parliamentary Sieť party, which seeks to limit such rights in cases where national security is threatened.

PRIVATE owners of firms should not be allowed to sell their shares to whomever they like based on a proposal by the extra-parliamentary Sieť party, which seeks to limit such rights in cases where national security is threatened.

The proposal is a reaction to the decision of Italian energy group Enel’s Board of Directors to sell its 66-percent stake in the country’s largest electricity company, Slovenské Elektrárne (SE). The sale of the 66-percent stake in SE is part of Enel’s plan to sell €4.4 billion of its assets to cut net debt to around €37 billion by the year’s end, Reuters wrote on July 5.

However, Russian state firm Rosatom may be a potential buyer and Sieť representatives pointed out that it would increase Slovakia’s energy dependency on Russia, the Sme daily reported.

“Slovakia is already significantly dependent on the Russian Federation in the energy sector,” says Sieť’s statement, “and such a sale could bring our dependency to the highest level in the EU.”

The ruling Smer party does not support the proposal. Smer’s MP Dušan Muňko explained that contracts with Enel from 2006 say that Slovakia has only minimal powers to affect the selling of SE shares and it cannot change that. The only option for the country is to use its pre-emptive right and buy SE’s shares, which would be too expensive, according to former economy minister Tomáš Malatinský.

According to the proposed legislation, the government should have the right to learn about the real owners of firms of strategic importance and it should have the right to know about planned changes in ownership. In cases when firms would not provide such information, the government would be able to stop the transfer of ownership rights, according to the Hospodárske Noviny daily.

“Currently, we have no legal right to know who the true owner of strategic companies is,” Miroslav Beblavý of Sieť told the media, as quoted by the TASR newswire, adding that a major Slovak firm could be owned by a post-box-based company from Cyprus, but the state would not even necessarily know who is behind it.

At the same time, the government would be obliged to asses the risks for national security in the event of such a sale, and in case of a significant threat, it should have the right to forbid the owner from selling its shares, according to proposal.

Security risks are posed by companies owned by a non-EU-member country, a state that is not a signatory to Slovakia’s international commitments and entities that seek excessive control over energy, defence or natural resources, Beblavý maintains.

Sieť leader Radoslav Procházka said that he expects a broad consensus on this issue pointing out that such legislation is standard in several countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and France.

The party is planning to submit the bill for the parliamentary session in September, claiming that it needs to react to an urgent situation. Beblavý said that Rosatom is the most active firm interested in SE.

“It is the company which openly admitted that it is a primary tool of Russian foreign policy,” Beblavý said, as quoted by TASR.

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