The Slovenia Times

Privatisation Goes On, Ljubljana Airport to Be Sold First

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Ongoing sale procedures have been restarted following the outgoing government's withdrawal of a controversial 3 July decision to freeze privatisation pending the appointment of the new government, representatives of the Slovenia Sovereign Holding (SSH) have said.

Procedures for the sale of state majority shares in three companies - in addition to Aerodrom, also telco Telekom Slovenije and the NKBM bank - are well along the way and are expected to be completed before the end of the year.

"The offers in all sales are of high quality and we are happy with the response from bidders," SSH chairman Matej Pirc said.

The farthest along the way is the airport operator, which could be sold as early as this month.

"We are expected to decide on the [binding bids]. Of course not everything depends on us but also on the [bidders]... We expect that the process can be wrapped up quickly, possibly as early as this month or in early September," said SSH vice-chairman Matej Runjak.

Runjak said that interest in the Aerodrom stake was strong. "We are happy with the process and with the offers which included a vision of development for the airport that we believe to be very ambitious."

The procedures for the sale of the telco are expected to continue in September with an invitation to presentation from the management to the bidders. Meanwhile, selected non-binding bidders for NKBM will be invited to perform due diligence.

The sales of the two companies are expected to unfold in the early autumn and wrapped up before the year is out.

Runjak stressed that the conditions on the market were right for pressing ahead with privatisation. "In view of the market conditions and the strong liquidity, we believe that there is sufficient demand."

In negotiating with bidders, the SSH is not differentiating between strategic and financial investors, despite some hesitancy in political circles to accepting the latter.

"Many financial investors have a focus on certain sectors, which makes them very qualified as investors," said Pirc.

The next step for the SSH is launching the sale of other companies on the list of 15, including construction materials maker Cinkarna Celje and bread and past group Ε½ito. Calls for expressions of interest in the two are expected to be published in the coming weeks.

While not commenting on the calls for a "controlled privatisation" from the winner of the 13 July general election, the Party of Miro Cerar (SMC), the SSH is hoping to be provided quickly with a strategy of managing state assets.

The document must be adopted by the government and is akin to a constitution for the SSH in managing state assets. Among other things it would determine what assets would be sold off beyond the current list of 15 companies and in what way.

One issue which this would clarify is the mounting calls for the exclusion of infrastructure or its separation from stakes which will be put up for sale. "We are looking for instructions on what this means exactly," said Pirc.

While some have speculated that this could impact on ongoing procedures, including the sale of telco Telekom Slovenije, a source familiar with the sale suggests this would be difficult. According to the source, the ongoing procedures have "reached a point of no return".

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