New management elected at PNS press distributor

The new board of directors of Prvá Novinová Spoločnosť (Slovakia's dominant press distributor, PNS), appointed on May 22 by its new sole shareholder, the FNM national privatization agency, met for the first time on May 25.

Igor Durič of VMV (the publisher of the daily Sme) was named chairman of the board of directors, and Milan Jablonický became the vice-chairman. Simultaneously, the board decided that Durič would serve as the director general of PNS.

The new supervisory board is made up of PNS employee representatives as well as three members of the FNM Executive Committee. The board told a news conference on May 25 that the leadership represents a "crisis management" team that could be changed after the company's financial situation is stabilized.

Former PNS owner Stanislav Srník was invited to the meeting of the PNS board of directors as well. The new management hopes Srník will be cooperative in handing over documents related to the office.

The FNM regained control over the PNS at the beginning of the week by seizing over 20% of PNS shares from a bankrupt former owner. Until then, it had possessed only 76.58% of shares, which was not enough for the FNM to execute its shareholder rights. Former members of the FNM's executive boards installed under the government of Vladimír Mečiar had cemented themselves into their posts at PNS by passing a company statute requiring 80% of shareholder support to summon a shareholders meeting and pass changes to the management or PNS strategy.

FNM officials have not said how they will settle the debts the PNS owes to publishers of periodical press in Slovakia. PNS ended 1998 with a loss of 185 million Slovak crowns, compared with a net profit of 20.4 million crowns in 1997.

The government and the FNM grew more aggressive in dealing with the situation at PNS after a public appeal by publishers, who claimed the PNS had virtually stopped paying them and owed them a total of 200 million crowns. The publishers had claimed the unpaid arrears threatened their survival.

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