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Slovenia won't rush privatisations as that could lower the price

Fri 18th December, 2015 4:43pm
By Marja Novak 
    LJUBLJANA, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Slovenia won't rush its 
privatisation programme as that could prevent the government 
from securing the maximum possible price for state assets, the 
head of state investment firm Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SDH) 
told Reuters. 
    The euro zone member said last week that it plans to start 
privatising 33 companies next year. They will include a majority 
stake in the country's biggest bank, Nova Ljubljanska Banka 
(NLB).  
    SDH is coordinating the privatisation programme but its new 
CEO Marko Jazbec acknowledged that the sale of the country's 
largest telecoms operator, Telekom Slovenia  TLSG LJ>, which 
fell through in August, is unlikely to be restarted as early as 
in 2016.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL5N10F3EE 
    "Telekom needs innovations and new products which will 
enable us to maximise its price," said Jazbec, who became CEO in 
October. 
    Slovenia narrowly avoided having to seek an international 
bailout in 2013 when it had to pour more than 3 billion euros 
($3.3 bln) into local banks to prevent their collapse under a 
large amount of bad loans.  
    In exchange for the European Commission's permission for 
state aid to banks the government promised to sell off most 
state banks in the coming years. 
    Lender NLB is due to be sold by the end of 2017, but Jazbec 
said that left "very little time". 
    For now there was no need to ask the European Commission to 
give Slovenia extra time to sell the bank, he said, but he also 
said that selling NLB might prove difficult, partly due to the 
fact that 20 percent of the bank's loans are non-performing 
loans (NPLs). 
    "Early next year we will open a tender for a consultant in 
the sale of NLB while we will also seek a consultant that will 
help the bank to repackage the NPLs and minimise their impact on 
the value of bank equity," Jazbec said. 
    NLB is the largest company in the privatisation programme. 
 ID:nL8N1453O1  
    Jazbec said that the speed of the privatisations is 
"reversely proportional with the state's goal of achieving a 
maximum possible purchase price". 
    Privatisation was important "to ensure that companies remain 
competitive and that they get owners who are able to invest in 
them", he said. 
    SDH plans to sell hygienic tissue producer Paloma to Polish 
investment fund Abris at the start of 2016, and it also hopes to 
find a buyer for the national aircraft carrier Adria Airways in 
the coming months.  ID:nL8N13L3IP  
    With the planned sales of Paloma and Adria Airways, SDH 
would have sold 9 out of 15 firms that were earmarked for 
privatisation by the previous government in 2013.  
    "I believe that the reputation of Slovenia is improving 
among international investors since we started several serious 
privatisations and have also managed to complete some of them," 
said Jazbec. 
    The government still controls about 50 percent of the 
economy, and as much as 60 percent of the banking sector in the 
country of just two million citizens, as previous governments 
claimed state ownership of big companies and banks was in the 
national interest. 
 
($1 = 0.9214 euros) 
 
 (Editing by Susan Fenton) 
 ((Marja.Novak@thomsonreuters.com; +386-1-5058805; Reuters 
Messaging: marja.novak.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)) 
 
Keywords: SLOVENIA PRIVATISATION/
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