THE ADMINISTRATOR of bankrupt Slovak chemical plant Novácke Chemické Závody (NCHZ) has officially announced an international public tender for its sale, the TASR newswire reported. Advertisements announcing the tender will be published in the international magazines The Economist and Wirtschaftspress, and in the Czech financial daily Hospodářské Noviny. The administrator, Slovenská Správcovská a Reštrukturalizačná Spoločnosť, said it hopes that the winner will be known by the end of this year or early next. Potential applicants will have until September 2 to register.
The administrator said it expects there to be interest in the plant.
“It is a strategic enterprise within the European area which despite its bankruptcy managed to keep its business partners and has remained an important Slovak exporter,” bankruptcy trustee Miroslav Duračinský stated. “The plant is being operated in accordance with the provisions of the law on strategic enterprises."
NCHZ got into trouble last year after the European Commission imposed fines totalling €61.12 million on it and eight other companies for violating the EC Treaty’s ban on cartels and restrictive business practices. The EC found that between 2004 and 2007 the nine companies fixed prices and shared markets for calcium carbide powder, calcium carbide granulates and magnesium granulates throughout a substantial part of the European Economic Area. Calcium carbide powder and magnesium granulates are used in the steel industry for de-sulphuring and de-oxidating. Calcium carbide granulates are used in the production of acetylene.
Of the nine companies fined, NCHZ and its former parent, 1. Garantovaná received the largest penalty, of €19.6 million. NCHZ, which regards the fine as having bankrupted it, has challenged the amount levied. The legal dispute is still ongoing.
NCHZ’s management filled for bankruptcy in September 2009. Despite the bankruptcy proceeding, the company has continued production and has not laid off any employees.
The Slovak government identified NCHZ as a strategic company at the beginning of December last year. The law gives the government a priority right to purchase the assets of companies in bankruptcy proceedings if they have been identified by the government as strategically important and got into trouble due to the economic crisis.
Economy Ministry spokesperson Robert Merva told the Slovak financial daily Hospodárske Noviny on August 12 that the ministry would not enter the tender but would follow the whole process with great interest. According to the ministry, now led by Juraj Miškov (SaS), state ownership of production companies is a relic from the communist regime.
NCHZ manufactures organic as well as inorganic chemicals for further use in various industries. It currently employs 1,764 people. Last year it reported a turnover of almost €230 million and a profit of €363,000. It is owned by a Cypriot company, Disor Holdings Limited, which acquired shares previously owned by the financial firms Penta and 1. Garantovaná, according to the SITA newswire.
19. Aug 2010 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff