VIENNA Dec 9 Austrian conservatives are pushing
to sell more state-owned shares in big Austrian companies such
as OMV, Telekom Austria or Austrian Post
as coalition talks heat up with the Social Democrats.
The two big parties that have dominated post-war politics
have laboured to strike a deal that could keep them governing
together after September elections that weakened them both and
bolstered the eurosceptic right wing.
Differences over how much belt-tightening Austria needs to
shore up state finances and pensions have held up a deal.
But talks gained pace after marathon weekend wrangling,
keeping alive the centre-left Social Democrats' (SPO) goal to
have a government in place by Christmas holidays on Dec. 24/25.
"It is right to say we're near the finish line, but it is
not so easy to say how long it will still take," one SPO source
said on Monday.
The People's Party (OVP), junior partner in the coalition
that has governed since 2006, wants to cut state stakes in OMV,
Telekom and Post to a blocking minority of 25 percent plus one
share, party heavyweight Erwin Proell, governor of Lower Austria
province, said in weekend media interviews.
Austrian media gave a mixed picture of how likely it was for
the OVP's wish to come true, given entrenched opposition to
further privatisation among many SPO leaders and labour unions.
"I'm not so sure there is as much movement as some
newspapers say," the SPO source said, noting such sales would
give state coffers just a short-term boost while reducing the
dividend flow from companies.
Austria has a 31.5 percent stake in energy group OMV and
reducing it could be complicated by an agreement with Abu
Dhabi's state investment fund IPIC - which has 24.9 percent - to
coordinate any changes in holdings.
Austria owns 28.4 percent of Telekom Austria via the OIAG
state holding company. It may need to stump up more money if it
wants to keep that stake steady, should the company raise
capital, a step that major shareholder Carlos Slim's America
Movil has called "very likely".
Austria owns a 52.9 percent stake in Post.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by David Holmes)