May 4, 2016 / 3:15 PM / 3 years ago

Slovakia could seek stake in U.S. Steel plant to prevent closure

BRATISLAVA, May 4 (Reuters) - The Slovak government may seek to buy a stake in United States Steel Corp’s factory in the country to prevent its closure if the U.S. owner decides to sell out, Economy Minister Peter Ziga said on Wednesday.

U.S. Steel Kosice is the biggest employer in the country of 5.4 million people. The U.S. company had considered a sale three years ago before the Slovak state offered annual incentives worth up to 15 million euros for 15 years.

However, the Hospodarske Noviny newspaper reported last December that Czech steelmaker Moravia Steel was eyeing the plant, which employs 12,000 in the east of Slovakia.

“I am worried about a possible change of the owner, if it were a non-standard owner,” Ziga told reporters.

“I can imagine that the government would join (any) talks and seek a share... to prevent a new owner buying the plant only to close it.”

“A 34 percent share would ensure a blocking mechanism so that the state can have a say,” he added.

A spokesman for U.S. Steel Kosice declined to comment when asked about the possibility of a sale.

However, he said the company, which has stayed in profit in the last two years after reporting a loss in 2013, was cutting costs to adjust to a market that saw falling steel prices. It had cut more than 20 office jobs as of May, he said. ($1 = 0.8700 euros) (Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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