Serbia approves sovereign guarantees for gas monopoly

Thu Nov 8, 2012 10:37am EST

Related Topics

* Loan to allow Srbijagas to maintain liquidity, repay debts

* Srbijagas to seek another 170 million euro this year

By Aleksandar Vasovic

BELGRADE, Nov 8 (Reuters) - The Serbian parliament approved on Thursday sovereign guarantees worth 190 million euro ($242.34 million) for loans the country's state-run gas monopoly needs to repay overdue debts.

Under the borrowing plan, the Srbijagas will seek five-year loans from seven banks, which will be indexed to the euro but paid out in the local dinar currency.

Deutsche Bank, Amsterdam Trade Bank and Volksbank would secure a total of 140 million euros. Serbian subsidiaries of the OTP Bank, Societe Generale and UniCredit will provide 10 million euros each, while the Vojvodjanska Banka, a part of the National Bank of Greece will secure another 20 million euros.

The guarantees were pencilled in the 2012 budget, which sees the deficit at 6.2 percent of gross domestic product by the end of the year, the parliament said in a statement. Srbijagas will use the loans to maintain its liquidity and repay some of its debt.

"The loans will be paid out in quarterly instalments and with an annual interest rate of three-month EURIBOR plus bank margins of between 5.98 to 7.25 percent," it said.

Earlier this week, the Srbijagas chief executive Dusan Bajatovic said the company also planned to seek another 170 million euros this year, also to maintain liquidity.

Last year Srbijagas owed more than 60 billion dinars ($678.98 million) to banks but claimed 150 million euros from heating plants and 400 million euros from industrial consumers for gas delivered at prices below those it had paid to Russia, Serbia's main supplier.

Parliament's approval boosted the dinar versus the euro on the interbank currency market. At mid-day on Thursday, the dinar traded at between 112.3 and 113.97 compared to between 112.98 and 113.55 a day earlier.

Stable and cheap energy supplies are a key part of the Socialist-nationalist government's efforts to keep a lid on social discontent caused by sinking living standards.

The economy is expected to decline about 2 percent this year amid rising poverty and unemployment, which now stands at about 25 percent.

Serbia, which hopes to see a recovery next year on the back of stronger investments, plans to start building in December an arm of Russia's South Stream gas pipeline, worth about 1.5 billion euros.

The project is part of a wider energy deal between Serbia, Russia and the Russian oil and gas giant, Gazprom. South Stream should deliver Russian gas to Europe, bypassing Ukraine.

Serbia has also asked to borrow about $1.8 billion from the Export-Import Bank of China to build highways and overhaul a key coal-fired power plant.

($1 = 0.7840 euros) (Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Jon Hemming)

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