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Opposition Smer demands that Cargo privatization stop

OPPOSITION party leader Robert Fico of Smer protested against the ongoing privatization of Slovakia’s railway transportation company, Cargo Slovakia (ZSSK Cargo).

Fico insists that the state would make a grave mistake by easing its hold on strategic companies, including ZSSK Cargo.

He says that selling the state-owned cargo transport company would cause prices to rise and unfairly benefit foreign owners, the news wire SITA wrote.

Smer plans to submit a proposal to parliament suspending all privatization decisions until the end of this election term. If they fail, the party will ask parliament to re-evaluate the privatization of Cargo.

Fico fears that Slovakia will become the first country in Western and Central Europe to sell a 100-percent stake of its railway cargo transport.

Cargo privatization is one of the last lucrative businesses of the current government, he stated.

The Transport Ministry's spokesperson, Tomáš Šarluška, hit back by saying the Cargo privatization is on Smer's political agenda.

According to Šarluška, Slovakia expects to see competition in the railway cargo transport sector intensify. If a strong investor does not stand behind the company, competition pressure would liquidate the company. He also said that the timing of the sale is sensitive; future proceeds from its privatization could be far lower.

The government announced a tender to privatize ZSSK Cargo on May 31. According to a concept for ZSSK Cargo's privatization that the cabinet and parliament approved, due diligence by selected investors and bid preparation should take place in August and September, while definitive bids should be submitted in October. Transport Minister Pavol Prokopovic anticipates proceeds from this privatization ranging from Sk15 to Sk20 billion.

ZSSK Cargo originated in January 2005 when railway company Železnicná Spolocnost split into two separate companies. ZSSK Cargo reported a profit of Sk423 million in the first quarter of 2005.

Compiled by Beata Balogova from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.

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