The Slovenia Times

Minister and commissioner agree to cooperate on issues in NLB sale


Minister said Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager had promised active support in the search for solutions.The first meeting after the government shelved the NLB sale it had promised to the Commission during the 2013 bailout focused on the reasons for the suspension and outlined further steps that could eventually also lead to a modification of Slovenia's commitments, the minister said.

The first step will focus on "potential solutions for minimising the impact the issue of Croatian [Yugoslav-era] foreign currency deposits has on the sales price for NLB".

Teams of experts will take on this issue, which reportedly was the key reason for what the government sees as a too low price, in September, possibly already in August. The next steps will follow once measures are defined for this field, the minister added.

She spoke of a constructive dialogue, explaining Vestager had promised active assistance on the part of the Commission's services in the search for solutions.

Asked about the chances of a three-year extension of the sales deadline and about compensatory measures during the process, Vraničar Erman said that details had not yet been discussed today.

Unofficially, it would be pretty optimistic to expect a three-year extension, with 12-months being more in line with the Commission's practice in the past.

The Slovenian side allegedly pointed out for the Commission that next year's general election should be considered as a factor when deciding on an extension.

Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said "the Commissioner and Minister Erman discussed possible technical solutions to facilitate Slovenia's implementation of the 2013 commitments relating to NLB, which allowed the Commission to approve state aid to the bank".

"The Commission will continue to engage in constructive contacts with the Slovenian authorities regarding this issue," he added.

In 2013, the Slovenian government committed to selling three-quarters of the country's largest bank by the end of 2017 in exchange for the Commission's approval of state aid.

The two sides later on agreed on the sale in two phases: 50% by the end of this year and 25% minus one share by the end of 2018, which Brussels approved in May.

However, in June the government rejected the minimum asking price of EUR 55 per share proposed by the SSH state asset custodian, effectively suspending the privatisation.

The main argument for the suspension was a risk related to the Croatian lawsuits over Yugoslav-era deposits.


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