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State share in brewery sold to unknown buyer

Pivovary a sladovne Hurbanovo, a state-owned malt producer which represented the 34% government stake in Zlatý Bažant (Gold Pheasant), Slovakia's largest brewery, was transferred on September 25 to a new firm in the brewing industry, the Hurban trading company.
The state privatisation agency, the National Property Fund (FNM), asked the Agriculture Ministry to delete the state-owned share in the Hurbanovo brewery from its register because it had been sold to the Hurban company, the winner of a public tender. The tender had been announced in the Slovak media on August 18, allowing potential buyers six days to apply for purchase.

Pivovary a sladovne Hurbanovo, a state-owned malt producer which represented the 34% government stake in Zlatý Bažant (Gold Pheasant), Slovakia's largest brewery, was transferred on September 25 to a new firm in the brewing industry, the Hurban trading company.

The state privatisation agency, the National Property Fund (FNM), asked the Agriculture Ministry to delete the state-owned share in the Hurbanovo brewery from its register because it had been sold to the Hurban company, the winner of a public tender. The tender had been announced in the Slovak media on August 18, allowing potential buyers six days to apply for purchase.

Peter Baco, the Agriculture Minister, signed the decision on the abolition of the state company on September 28. He also entrusted the director of the company, Imrich Alaxa, to return all movable and immovable property, worth 602 million Sk ($16.72 million) to the FNM by September 30. On October 1, the FNM sold the company to Hurban.

"I've fulfilled the orders of the Minister and that's it," said Alaxa when contacted by The Slovak Spectator on October 26. Alaxa refused to reveal any details about the sale of the state company.

An official at the Ministry who requested anonymity said that "we just did what we were told by the FNM. We had no hidden interests here."

The Slovak daily newspaper Pravda reported on October 23 that the Hurban company had actually been founded on July 29, just three weeks before the public tender was announced. The trade register records that the Hurban company's activities have focused primarily on "beer production".

Interestingly, the headquarters of the company is registered at no. 32 Tomášikova street in Bratislava, the same address of former Premier Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party. The person in charge of the company's legal affairs also runs a law company seated at the same address as the HZDS and Hurban.

"This was one of the last rewards extended to people loyal to the former Mečiar government," said Viktor Levkanič, an analyst at Slavia Capital brokers.

The privatisation of Zlaty Bažant, now Slovakia s largest and most modern brewery, started in February 1992 with the sale of a 49% stake to the Slovak-Swiss company Norema. In 1995, the giant Dutch brewery Heineken bought out the Norema stake and bought enough additional shares from the FNM to give it majority ownership of the brewery. "If the recent tender had been held in a normal way, the majority owner would certainly have tried to obtain the share [that went to Hurban]," said Levkanič.

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