Romania delays IMF-agreed sale of state companies by a year

Wed Dec 19, 2012 4:27am EST

* Raises questions over IMF commitment

* New government pledged to seek new IMF deal early in 2013

BUCHAREST Dec 19 (Reuters) - Romania postponed the sale of minority stakes in several state controlled companies, as agreed with the International Monetary Fund, by a year to end-2013, the government said on Wednesday.

The leftist government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, which won an overwhelming victory in a Dec. 9 parliamentary election, did not give a reason for the decision, which raises questions over Romania's commitment to working with the IMF.

The IMF has regularly criticised the European Union's second-poorest member for failing to sell and reform its inefficient and oversized state sector, which holds back an economy that is only slowly emerging from a deep recession.

Romania committed to an ambitious series of privatisations under a 5 billion euro deal that expires in early 2013 but has only concluded a secondary listing in power grid operator Transelectrica, raising 38 million euros.

Ponta has pledged to seek a replacement IMF deal as soon as his new government is approved by parliament, which is expected on Friday.

The government announcement, published on its website, said it was extending a deadline to list stakes in companies including freight railway firm CFR Marfa, airline Tarom, natural gas producer Romgaz and nuclear power firm Nuclearelectrica until the end of next year.

The sale of a minority stake in gas pipeline operator Transgaz is also delayed.

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