IT WOULD appear that the creditors of PPS Detva Holding have finally been forced to agree to the sale of the failing engineering firm.
The company's journey from major arms manufacturer to bankrupt spare parts non-manufacturer was an example of some of the worst excesses of 1990s Slovakia. PPS Detva was privatised by the government of Vladimír Mečiar in 1995 and like in many privatisations of the Mečiar era, its new owners ran up huge debts for the company before transferring its assets to a new firm, the current PPS Detva Holding, in 1997.
However, the new company also began to run up debts, and its creditors challenged the legality of the asset transfer resulting in bankruptcy.
PPS Holding's unions have become increasingly desperate as the creditors have consistently failed to agree on a buyer for the company, and the workforce has been slashed from 1,800 to 560. Even those still working for the company are missing paychecks from the first three months of 2002.
The company has seen its orders leech away as the uncertainty concerning its ownership continues. Without the recent agreement for the sale, the final closure of the company would have come within months despite Volvo promising both investment and further orders for the company.
It was only the desperate measure of the local union blockading a local road and the resulting increased pressure from the government that finally forced the creditors to back down and finally accept one of the offers, from Sitno Holding, owned by former economy minister Ľudovít Černák. At last the story has a happy ending... or does it?
Lest we forget, Černák was forced to resign as economy minister in 1999, amid a flurry of corruption allegations. Černák has also had a colourful political past, throwing his weight behind the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and Slovak National Party, before finally finding his ministerial position as a member of the Slovak Democratic Coalition.
Let us wait a little before breathing a sigh of relief for the workers of Detva.
7. Jul 2003 at 0:00