Serbia renews attempt to sell sole steel mill

BELGRADE Mon Oct 8, 2012 1:07pm EDT

BELGRADE Oct 8 (Reuters) - Serbia invited bids for its sole steel mill on Monday in a renewed attempt to sell the loss-making company, almost a year since previous owner U.S. Steel abandoned it to cut losses.

The Serbian finance ministry set Oct. 26 as the deadline for bidders which must be from the iron, steel or mining sectors, with assets of at least $2.5 billion and 2011 revenue of $2 billion.

The Serbian government bought the loss-making plant in the central city of Smederevo from U.S. Steel for a nominal $1 to avert the potential loss of 5,500 jobs and started financing it from the budget.

Previous attempts to sell the company this year failed due to lack of interest. Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said last month Serbia was close to a deal with an unidentified Russian company.

The new tender offer requires a prospective buyer to draw up a plan to restart Zelezara Smederevo's two idled furnaces and invest at least $50 million over four years.

Finding a buyer for the plant is crucial for Serbia which is sliding into recession while seeking to cut its budget deficit of around 6.2 percent of GDP.

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