The Slovenia Times

Minister says govt had to intervene in sale of Istrabenz hotels


The minister's interview, run by the weekly on Friday, comes after the government tasked the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) with seizing shares of Istrabenz Turizem which the tourism company used as collateral for loans.

The move was made just as the deadline for binding bids for Istrabenz Turizem, which owns six hotels in Portorož on the Slovenian coast and which has overdue liabilities to the bad bank, was about to expire.

Počivalšek said that there was a "covert agreement" in the sale of the company, to which the government had to respond. He added that the BAMC had not followed the tourism strategy by wanting to sell "too quickly and too cheaply to a wrong owner".

"What they were doing was a sabotage," the minister said, with the "wrong owner" possibly being a reference to Serbian businessman Miodrag Kostić, who has been mentioned as a prospective bidder for the six hotels.

Asked whether the replacement of the management of the bad bank would be followed by the replacement of Lidija Glavina, the chairman of Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), he said he was satisfied with the "staff situation in the BAMC and SSH developing in the positive direction".

The minister assessed that after the privatisation of the NLB bank, the third-largest bank Abanka should remain state-owned, "because we too are able to manage banks at least as well as some fund".

He thinks that the commitment to sell the bank in exchange for the approval of the 2013 state-sponsored bailout should be re-negotiated with the European Commission.

Regarding retailer Mercator, Počivalšek said that it was of strategic importance and that the state thus had the right to "interfere in its operations and restructuring".

The state buying Mercator is not an option for now, he said, adding that the retailer should "get a healthy owner which would reduce debt, the logistics problem, and above all find a business model which would enable survival".


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