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Fico government prepares first privatization

ALTHOUGH the new Robert Fico government has pledged not to privatize state property, it is already planning the sale of a 37 percent stake in Poštová Banka (PB) owned by the state debt consolidation agency Slovenská Konsolidačná (SKo).

PB is one of Slovakia’s smallest banks with total assets of only Sk26.4 billion. Its majority owner is the Istrokapitál financial group, which has a 55.5 percent stake is.

However, representatives of the ruling Smer party’s coalition partners, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the Slovak National Party (SNS), say they were not informed of the planned sale of the PB stake.

“Nobody discussed this with us,” HZDS deputy chairman Milan Urbáni told the Pravda daily.

Fico’s spokeswoman, Silvia Glendová, said that the government’s decision not to privatize state property had only covered assets owned directly by the state or by the National Property Fund.

“That means that the while the state owns a 100 percent stake in SKo, it does not own its assets,” Glendová said.

The state shares in PB will be bought by the bank itself, with Istrokapitál increasing the bank’s share capital by the same sum.

The Finance Ministry has agreed with the plan, but says that the central bank must approve the deal before Istrokapitál will be allow to increase its share in the bank.

Istrokapitál has not yet asked the NBS for the required approval.

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