The state's share in Priemyselná Banka (PB), based in Košice, was inexplicably allowed to fall from over 50% to 37% on September 14 when state companies holding stakes in the bank failed to subscribe a 598 million crown increase in the bank's share assets to just over two billion crowns.
The share increase had been approved on September 8 by the state companies which together owned a majority in PB, including Slovak gas distributor Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel (SPP), insurer Slovenská Poisťovňa and power producer Slovenské Elektrárne. According to an agreement between Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová and Economy Minister Ľudovít Černák, the state firms, principally the SPP, had been meant to subscribe the share increase in order to maintain their majority stake.
After the increase, the biggest shareholders include the private firms Capital Invest, Capitalue S.A. Luxembourg, Prvá Penzijná Investičná Spoločnosť and Tatra Raiffeisen Capital, each holding a 9.98% stake. According to the daily newspaper Sme, PB shares are only "parked" in these companies, while their real owners remain unknown.
The Slovak daily paper Pravda noted that PB controls a 10% stake in eastern Slovak steelmaker VSŽ, which has scheduled a crucial shareholders meeting for September 22. If the state no longer controls that 10% VSŽ stake, it may find itself unable to prevent changes in VSŽ management and strategy that have been proposed by the company's former management.
PB shareholders also elected a new board of directors and a new supervisory board at their September 14 meeting, but once again the state's interests were foiled. Schmögnerová said that two of the four men elected to the supervisory board - Štefan Szöke Marián Staník - had not been proposed by the government.
"This leadership does not have the confidence of the Finance Ministry," said Schmögnerová. "Therefore the bodies which the ministry controls will immediately take countermeasures."
20. Sep 1999 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson