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ECONOMIC BRIEFS

Government may get rid of all ST shares after 2003

A strategic partner for state telecom monopoly Slovenské Telekomunikácie will be offered a 51% stake in the company, both through a direct sale and through an increase in the volume of share assets. The state will keep a controlling 34% stake, while the FNM privatisation agency will dispose of the remaining 15% at its discretion, said Telecom Minister Jozef Macejko at a press conference on October 29.

Macejko added that once ST loses its monopoly in 2003, there will no longer be any reason for the state to hold onto its stake in the telecom firm.

The privatization procedure will be managed by an inter-ministerial commission in co-operation with a consulting consortium led by Deutsche Bank. The commission, headed by the Telecom Minister, also includes deputy ministers of other sectors, representatives from the Antitrust Bureau and the FNM, as well as a representatives of the corruption watchdog Transparency International Slovakia.

The ST sale to date has been plagued by delays and accusations of non-transparency, resulting in the resignation of former Telecom Minister Gabriel Palacka on August 8. Macejko promised that hereafter, the public would be fully informed of the tender procedure, excluding the number of bidders and the revenue expected from the sale.

Macejko also said that the ministry was trying to speed up the settlement of a court case with the Austrian CDI company, which resulted in a surprise decision by the Bratislava 1 District Court in mid-October to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the government from disposing of ST shares.

Macejko said that the cabinet had discussed and approved the above-mentioned plans for the sale of ST. A memorandum would be announced in early November, he said, to be followed by the first round of the tender for selection of a strategic foreign investor.

Candidates that met all the technical requirements would advance to the second round, where the investor offering the highest price would be selected. The privatization of Slovak Telecom should be completed in the first quarter of 2000 as originally planned, Macejko added.

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