The Slovenia Times

Počivalšek to strive to exercise pre-emptive right to Sava


Ljubljana - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said he would strive for the state to exercise the pre-emptive right to a 43% stake in the tourism company Sava, which the private equity fund York has agreed to sell to Prestige, a company backed by a Hungarian fund. The final decision will be made after talks with the buyer and the relevant state institutions.

"After all data is collected, we will make the best decision for Slovenian tourism," the minister told the press on Wednesday, after it was reported that York has finalised a deal to sell the stake to Prestige for EUR 38 million.

The takeover would take place after the suspensive conditions have been met, including consent of the competition watchdog and the state failing to exercise the pre-emptive right. It is reported that Prestige would invest EUR 200 million in Sava.

As the state has 30 days to invoke the pre-emptive right, Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) said after confirming it had received notification of the deal that it was collecting information to "adopt an informed governance decision".

Počivalšek, who has already met representatives of Prestige, said today he would strive to exercise the pre-emptive right for Sava, in which the state owns a 47% stake through SSH and the KAD fund.

However, he said that the "story is not black and white" and that it was not only about exercising the pre-emptive right.

"A solution needs to be found for a major part of Slovenian tourism that Sava is, as the holding is in economic difficulties, with debt over EUR 100 million," he said, adding that there had been no major investments in recent years.

"Once we get answers from Prestige Tourism, once the company guarantees that it will do what it promises, then we will make decisions," the minister said.

He added that he could not order SSH and KAD to take a particular decision, while noting that this was his personal position.

The opposition Social Democrats (SD) meanwhile called on Počivalšek and SSH chairman Janez Žlak to come up publicly with clear answers about whether the state actually planned to exercise the pre-emptive right.

SD deputy Meira Hot told the press that a week had passed since the first reports about York's intention to sell, and none of the responsible ones stepped in front of the cameras to explain what the state would do.

"Will the state follow its strategic documents? Will it protect this strategic industry?" she wondered, adding that employees in the tourism industry were worried about the coming days, about their jobs and future development of tourism.

Hot said that if the minister and SSH chairman failed to provide answers, this meant that the "state had given up on Slovenian tourism and that it did not care about thousands of employees in the industry and the key strategic destinations."

The Association of Tourism Journalists issued a press release to express concern with the developments and speak of "unreasonable fire sale of Slovenian tourism treasure, i.e. those parts that are still owned by the state."

The 43% stake in Sava held by York is instrumental to plans to form a state-owned tourism holding out of remnants of tourism companies that ran into trouble during the last financial crisis and ended up on the books of the bad bank.

The original plan, in the making for years and spearheaded by the Economy Ministry, was to make Sava's subsidiary Sava Turizem, which owns hotels on the coast, in Bled and in eastern Slovenia, the core of the new holding.

Some media reports indicated that the state exercising the pre-emptive right could prove impossible since the 43% stake is held by a special-purpose vehicle that could be sold as a whole.


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