* Tender for sale of loss-making steel mill fails
* Employs 5,500 workers
By Jaksa Scekic
SMEDEREVO, Serbia, March 1 Serbia plans to
restart production at its sole steel mill and issue sovereign
guarantees for fresh borrowing to avert its closure after
failing to find a buyer, the finance minister said on Friday.
The Balkan country has been trying to offload the
loss-making Zelezara Smederevo mill since buying it back from
U.S. Steel in late 2011 for $1, but a third deadline for
offers expired on Thursday without any interest.
"There's a possibility that the furnace could be operational
in April," Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic told reporters in
Smederevo after meeting the company's leadership and unions.
"It's much better for people to work instead of sitting at
home on 60-percent pay."
U.S. Steel paid $33 million for the plant in 2003 in
Serbia's first major privatisation deal following the fall of
late strongman leader Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.
But it ran well below annual capacity of 2.4 million tonnes
The government halted production in July last year and sent
most of the 5,500 workers home on reduced pay financed from the
Serbia had been hoping to offload the mill, and a number of
other loss-making assets, with Dinkic trying to slash a budget
deficit of 6 percent of national output last year to 3.6 percent
in 2013. But an offer from Russian tank and railcar manufacturer
Uralvagonzavod never materialised.
Dinkic said the government remained open to investors in
Zelezara "without conditions, tenders and formalities."
He said government's Development Fund would issue sovereign
guarantees for fresh commercial borrowing to fund production.