* Outgoing PM halts privatisations before July 13 poll
* Comes amid reports of bids for NKBM, Ljubljana airport
* Privatisations unpopular but would help state finances
(Updates with finance minister quote in 2nd, 7th paragraphs)
By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA, July 3 Slovenia is halting all
privatisations until a new government is formed after a snap
election on July 13, outgoing Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek
said on Thursday, drawing a sharp response from the finance
minister in her own government.
Analysts said the move was aimed at raising Bratusek's
popularity with voters, who generally oppose attempts to sell
local companies. Finance Minister Uros Cufer called the decision
a part of "pre-election hysteria".
The decision could ultimately deter investors or bring down
the prices of companies sold, analysts said, and delay much
needed revenue for a country that had to inject 3.3 billion
euros ($4.5 billion) into its banks in December to avoid an
"We decided that no privatisation can be completed and no
new privatisation can start until a new government is formed,"
Bratusek told a press conference after a regular government
"Privatisation processes can continue, but privatisations
cannot be completed before the new government is formed so that
the new government will have a chance to reconsider them."
She said foreign investors were welcome in Slovenia but
added the government took this step because privatisation was
"the hottest pre-election topic".
Finance Minister Cufer did not hide his disappointment.
"I see this as a pre-election hysteria ... for which there
is no rational reason and no excuse," Cufer told reporters.
Bratusek's centre-left government last year earmarked 15
companies for privatisation, two of which have been sold
already. Others on the list include Slovenia's second-largest
bank Nova KBM, airport Aerodrom Ljubljana and telecom
Slovenia, which joined the European Union in 2004 and the
euro zone in 2007, has for years been reluctant to sell its
major companies, citing national interests. The government still
controls more than 50 percent of the economy.
The election was called after Bratusek lost the leadership
of her centre-left Positive Slovenia party and resigned in May.
Opinion polls show her new party, the Alliance of Alenka
Bratusek, may find it difficult to pass the 4 percent threshold
for parliamentary representation.
"This step is part of the election campaign, and if
privatisations will indeed be stopped for now that will only
reduce the price of the companies on sale," said Primoz Cencelj,
a fixed-income portfolio manager at investment firm KD Skladi.
Bratusek's comment came hours after a local newspaper, Delo,
reported the government had received six expressions of interest
for the purchase of NKBM bank.
Local media also said France's Vinci Airports and German's
airport operator Fraport were bidding for Aerodrom
They said Slovenia had received eight non-binding bids for
Telekom as well. State investment firm SDH, which is in charge
of the sale, declined to comment.
Miro Cerar, who opinion polls suggest is likely to be the
next prime minister, told Reuters on Wednesday he was against
the sale of Aerodrom and Telekom but supported the privatisation
of NKBM bank.
Bratusek's government had not published a target for funds
to be raised from its planned privatisations, although analysts
have said a figure of around 1 billion euros was reasonable.
Slovenia has already borrowed enough to cover its budget
needs for 2014 and part of 2015. It expects a budget deficit of
4.2 percent of gross domestic product this year, down from 14.7
pct in 2013, when the deficit was boosted by the bank rescues.
($1 = 0.7331 Euros)
(Editing by Larry King)