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Parliament rejects VSŽ share report

ECONOMY minister Ľubomir Harach has released a report defending the sale of 21 per cent of steel maker VSŽ from Transpetrol's portfolio last December. The sale, which took place on the Bratislava stock exchange just before trading closed for the Christmas holiday, raised allegations of insider trading and price fixing.

According to Harach, the shares were not sold at a loss and Transpetrol netted Sk250 million from the deal. Harach also said this number was higher than the bid from US Steel or any other bidder.

Although Transpetrol had originally paid Sk206 per share, the December sale price was Sk160 per share. VSŽ itself claims to have offered Sk200 per share, an offer Harach said came too late.

In his report, released April 5, Harach said he had allowed the transfer of the shares on December 20 based on Transpetrol's request, and that he had known neither the date nor the price for the sale. Furthermore, he claimed, the head of the Financial Market Office had raised no objections to the deal.

The sale generated harsh criticism from the investment community for a lack of transparency. While denying responsibility, Harach offered several times to resign over the matter, but his resignation was rejected by Prime Minister Dzurinda.

Parliament did not accept the report and is demanding that the Economy Ministry present a new one.

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