FinMin: NLB privatisation procedures to continue as planned
Slovenian Finance Minister met Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Monday, but said the process would for the time being continue as planned.
Speaking after the meeting in Brussels, Vraničar Erman said the key message concerning the NLB sale was that Slovenia was committed to respect the commitments given and that procedures continued as initially planned.
Slovenia committed to sell NLB by the end of 2017 in the restructuring plan that served as a basis for the European Commission's approval of state aid to the bank in the 2013 bailout. But there has been speculation in the Slovenian media for months that the country would ask for an extension.
Vraničar Erman said- meeting had been planned since she took over as Slovenia's finance minister in September. She said the meeting had been constructive and reviewed unresolved issues, in particular regarding further steps concerning banks.
She said she and the commissioner agreed on continued close cooperation to ensure that the commitments were respected to the maximum extent possible, but with the consideration of special circumstances that needed to be ensured for the government to conduct procedures as a responsible owner.
The Finance Ministry said subsequently that the goal of selling the NLB and then Abanka, Slovenia's third largest bank, was to maximise the return of funds that the state invested in the repair of both banks.
The minister said Slovenia today did not propose an extension of the deadline for the sale of NLB, but continued with the planned procedures.
"In each phase of the procedure we will examine circumstances and possible outcomes, so that all options remain open. Essentially, our message today is that we are committed to respecting the commitments made and that we will be continuing with the procedures."
Commenting on Brussels' conditions for a potential extension of the deadline, the minister said the European Commission would as a rule take a balanced approach. In all the cases of an extension so far, the Commission demanded a straining of other commitments in exchange.
"But we didn't discuss that today because our first option remains to continue with all procedures and to meet commitments on the deadlines given," she said, adding that each step would be monitored as taken and decisions adopted accordingly.
The European Commission's comment after the meeting was that it was monitoring the honouring of the commitments of December 2013, when Slovenian authorities put forward the restructuring plans until December 2017, and that it remained in contact with Slovenian authorities.
The Finance Ministry, speaking about the goal of maximising the return for the taxpayer through the sale of NLB and Abanka, said that Commissioner Vestager understood Slovenia's position but that she also warned against potential distortion of competition in the market.
The European Commission examines requests for a change in such commitments case by case. An extension of the deadline for a bank's sale would likely entail compensation measures so that the extension did not undermine the goals of the Commission's initial decision in endorsing state aid.