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IN SHORT

Coalition: Privatization stops March 31

THE RULING coalition has decided not to privatize any more state assets after March 31 in what it claims is a gesture of good will to the public and the political opposition ahead of scheduled September elections.

The agreement may endanger the completion of the privatization sales of energy distributors Stredoslovenská energetika and Východoslovenská energetika, the Pravda daily wrote.

However, apart from these two deals, other ongoing privatizations should not be affected. The 100-percent sale of railway cargo transport company ZSSK Cargo should be completed by February this year, for example.

Also, the state privatization agency, the National Property Fund (FNM), plans to select investors for heating companies in Bratislava, Žilina, Trnava, Zvolen, Martin and Košice, by the end of March.

The coalition said it had arrived at the decision because it does not want to risk alienating voters over sensitive privatization deals.

Before previous national elections in 1998 and 2002, the governments in power were criticized for seeming to rush through dubious privatization sales before leaving office.

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