* Yushchenko move seems aimed at rival, PM Tymoshenko
* Tymoshenko says auction will still go ahead
* Government hoped sale would boost revenue by $500 mln
By Yuri Kulikov
KIEV, Sept 17 Ukrainian President Viktor
Yushchenko on Thursday moved to block the privatisation of a
Black Sea chemical plant in what analysts said was a clear act
to spite his rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
A decree from Yushchenko's office said he took the decision
to suspend privatisation of the Odessa Port plant, which the
government hoped would bring at least $500 million into depleted
state coffers, because of national security concerns.
But analysts and opponents saw the decision as a clear move
by Yushchenko to stymie Tymoshenko, a rival who is far more
popular in the country and is a front-runner in the race to
succeed him in a Jan. 17 election.
Yushchenko and Tymoshenko were allies in a pro-Western
revolution in Ukraine in 2004 but quickly fell out and are now
fierce rivals for authority in the country.
Tymoshenko has high ratings and good chances in the January
election while Yushchenko, whose current ratings are low,
appears to have little chance of re-election.
"This (suspension move) is a continuation of the
confrontation between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko ... In these
conditions the (state property) fund can not hold the Sept. 29
auction. It seems to me that the sale will not take place before
the presidential election," Agshin Mizazade, analyst for Foyil
Securities, told Reuters.
But Tymoshenko herself said Yushchenko's move would not stop
the auction, in which a Norwegian, Polish and Libyan consortium
has expressed an interest.
"I want to firmly say that since the privatisation decision
was taken by the state property fund it (the sale) remains
within the time lines defined by the fund and nothing can
obstruct this," she said in a statement.
First Deputy Prime Minister Oleksander Turchinov described
Yushchenko's move as a "blow to the authority and prestige of
"It goes without saying that it is an attempt to undermine
the budget process for this year," he told a news conference.
BIGGEST 2009 SALE
The planned privatisation of Odessa Port fertiliser plant is
by far the biggest such sale in Ukraine for 2009.
Holding out the promise of a revenue of $500 million, it
seems a gift for the ex-Soviet state which has been hit hard by
the recession and is drawing on a $16.4 billion International
Monetary Fund bail-out programme.
Yushchenko has twice banned the Odessa plant's
privatisation on grounds of national security. He has also
previously said there were antitrust reasons for banning the
sale, namely that the new owners of the plant would be able to
monopolise an export terminal also belonging to the factory.
Norwegian fertiliser giant, Yara International (YAR.OL) said
earlier this week it and partners from Poland and Libya had
submitted documents to bid for the plant.
Yushchenko, in another swipe at Tymoshenko earlier on
Thursday, said he was disappointed with the leniency that
international financial institutions had shown to her
"Populism and politicising have replaced the reforms that
Ukraine should have carried out under the supervision of
international financial institutions," he told a forum of
academics and analysts debating Ukraine's economic situation.
(Writing by Richard Balmforth; editing by Simon Jessop)
(Kiev bureau; tel: +380 44 244 9150; RM: