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ECONOMIC BRIEFS

EBRD wants to get heavily involved in Slovak privatisation

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) wants to buy into several Slovak banks and companies slated for privatisation, Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Mikloš said on July 6.

Miklos said EBRD First Vice President Charles Frank had told him of the EBRD's offers at a conference in Austria last week. He added that the EBRD's interest should create better conditions and increase Slovak companies' credibility in the privatisation process, if such a reputable international bank entered the arena before any actual sales took place. Sell-offs of state firms are a key piece of the Slovak government's plans to turn around the ailing economy.

Mikloš said the EBRD had offered, even before privatisation to provide Slovakia's second largest bank, VÚB, with a loan to cover a part of its bad loan portfolio and to acquire a stake either by buying shares or raising VÚB's basic capital. The government plans to sell its 50.5% stake in VÚB to a foreign investor by the end of 2000.

He added that the EBRD had made same offer - that of entry before privatisation - with respect to the privatisation of Slovak Telecom. The Slovak government has said it is planning to call an international tender this year to sell a minority stake in the monopoly state telecom by the end of the first quarter of 2000.

Mikloš said the EBRD was also interested in a similar transaction with regard to the steel maker VSŽ. He did not specify the total volume of investments on offer from the EBRD, but said they were on the scale of hundreds of millions of dollars.

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