VSŽ looking for new US Steel offer, says spokesman
Slovak steel maker VSŽ said on January 24 it was waiting for a new offer from potential investor US Steel to bring progress to year-long negotiations.
VSŽ, the country's biggest company with over 20,000 employees, ran into deep financial trouble in 1998 after failing to meet a $35 million repayment on a syndicated loan. In the wake of the crisis, creditors, shareholders and the Slovak government brought in new management which later started negotiations with US Steel over the possibility of forming a joint venture, with US Steel likely to take a majority stake.
"It is in the interests of VSŽ to finish the negotiations as soon as possible," said company spokesman Jozef Marko. "However, the last offer by US Steel was made in August last year, and many changes have happened at VSŽ since then." He did not specify details of the August offer.
"The company has been gradually restructured and many financial figures have improved too...since we recognise this as visible progress, we expect the new offer (from US Steel) should correspond with this new situation," Marko said.
Marko said that US Steel wanted another round of talks to take place before February 2. Apart from US Steel and VSŽ, creditors and representatives of the state would participate in the meeting, he said.á
The local daily Národná Obroda on January 24 quoted the president of VSŽ, Gabriel Eichler, as saying US Steel wanted to invest $700 million over 10 years in VSŽ after acquiring a majority stake in the company. But Marko said he could not comment on such reports.
At the end of 1998, the company posted a net loss of 11.06 billion crowns ($265 million) after a 0.6 billion profit the year before. Last month, VSŽ said it expected to post a 7.215 billion crown loss for 1999.
Economy Minister helps ZSNP on loan restructuring
Economy Minister Ľubomír Harach met with the management of aluminum firm ZSNP, of central Slovakia's Žiar nad Hronom, on January 21 to discuss plans for the restructuring of loans for ZSNP's development. Harach said the restructuring would widen aluminum production at Slovalco, which belongs to the ZSNP group.
The loans, which were provided by the state banks VÚB and Slovenská Sporiteľňa, will be partially paid off now with the remainder paid back in longer-term installments. The proposal forsees the settlement of all loans by 2003. "The company is not asking for any new loans, but for restructuring of its old ones, and I consider this to be positive," Harach said.
Harach expects ZSNP to be sold again after the conclusion of restructuring in accord with the above proposal.
Ministry spokesman Robert Merva described three possibilities for disposing of the state's stake in ZSNP. The first is a direct sale to Žiarské Hutnické Konzorcium (a metallurgical consortium), while the second is a direct sale to a company selected from nine bidders interested in the purchase. The third possibility is sale through a public tender. The Economy Ministry considers the third alternative to be the most viable possibility because it can fetch the highest purchase price.
Transpetrol boasts 621 million Sk profit for 1999
State-owned crude oil pipeline operator Transpetrol expects to make a gross profit of 621 million crowns ($15 million) on total revenues of 2.2 billion crowns ($53 million) for 1999. The profit is roughly at the same level of 1998, said Stefan Czucz, the company's director and chairman of its board of directors, on January 24.
For 2000, the company projects revenues at 2.3 billion crowns with a pretax profit of 522 million crowns. The drop from 1999 is a consequence of growing depreciation and maintenance costs in connection with extensive capital investments, Czucz said.
Planned investments for 2000 total 990 million crowns, and will be oriented toward the pipeline transport route development, storage capacities and safety and protection systems.
Transpetrol transports Russian crude oil through Slovakia's pipeline network and secures its storage. The company is state-run because of its 'strategic' importance to the Slovak economy, which is why it was excluded from privatization in the past. However, part of the company is expected to be sold this year.
Surging Globtel improves profit estimate for 1999
Preliminary calculations show that mobile phone operator Globtel GSM recorded total sales of 5.9 billion crowns in 1999, which exceeds its projected sales by 100 million crowns. The pre-tax profit, calculated according to American accounting standards, is expected to be 800 million crowns, up 8.5% from what was projected, Globtel GSM Director Pavol Lančarič said on January 20.
In 1999, the mobile operator directed capital investments of 2.3 billion crowns toward improving its services and the construction of a GSM 1800 network. On November 15, Globtel launched the commercial operation of the GSM 1800 MHz band in Bratislava. Customers can use GSM 1800 network in all localities covered by dual basis stations.
Globtel GSM reports 522,000 customers, and its share on the Slovak GSM market is 61%.
Whirlpool Slovakia turnover 6.3 billion crowns for 1999
Foreign investor Whirlpool Slovakia of northern Slovakia's Poprad announced its preliminary economic results on January 19. The Poprad plant manufactured 757,000 washing machines in 1999, with exports accounting for 4.9 billion crowns and constituting 92% of the company's output.
Whirlpool Slovakia's turnover totaled 6.3 billion crowns, compared with 4.2 billion crowns the company reported in 1998. The company's' representatives expect a 1999 gross profit of over 400 million crowns. Last year's investments by Whirlpool Slovakia were 287 million crowns, and at the end of 1999, the company employed 670 people.
Compiled by Keith Miller
from SITA and Reuters
31. Jan 2000 at 0:00