June 19, 2014 / 8:46 PM / 5 years ago

Slovene PM hopeful says is against Telekom privatisation

LJUBLJANA, June 19 (Reuters) - Political newcomer Miro Cerar, ahead in the polls to win Slovenia’s snap election in July, said on Thursday he would not sell off Telekom Slovenia which had been slated for privatisation.

“We will aim to stop it if that will be possible,” Cerar said in a televised election debate.

Cerar, a law professor and legal advisor to parliament, formed his centre-left Party Miro Cerar (SMC) on June 2, with a focus on the rule of law, liberalising the economy and improving the efficiency of the public sector.

“We are not against privatisation, there are a number of companies that we will privatise but those that are of strategic importance to Slovenia ... should remain in state hands,” Cerar told the debate broadcast on privately-owned POP TV.

The country, which narrowly avoided an international bailout last year, has been reluctant to privatise state firms so the government still controls about 50 percent of the economy, leaving ample room for cronyism and corruption.

The centre-left government of incumbent Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek last year slated 15 firms for privatisation, of which two have been sold so far.

Telekom is the biggest company on the privatisation list with market capitalisation of some 925 million euros ($1.26 billion) and Bratusek’s government had hoped to sell it by the end of 2014.

Last week the government invited binding bids for the company after it had received non-binding bids from a significant number of strategic and financial investors whose names were not revealed.

The government and state-owned businesses were due to sell a total of 72.75 percent of Telekom, with the rest of the company already in the hands of private investors.

Sources close to the deal told Reuters in December that private equity groups and companies such as Deutsche Telekom and Telenor could be interested.

Slovenia, which managed to avoid an international bailout in December by pumping some 3.3 billion euros into local banks to prevent them from collapsing under a large amount of bad loans, will hold its second premature election in a row on July 13.

The election was called after Bratusek resigned in May because she lost the battle for the leadership of the Positive Slovenia party.

All opinion polls published since June 9 have put Cerar’s party on top with between 14.6 and 32.2 percent of the vote.

$1 = 0.7336 Euros Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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