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Weekly: Energy shopping maniac

Minister hospodárstva Peter Žiga MH
Minister hospodárstva Peter Žiga (Smer-SD). SITA

Newly appointed economy minister who was behind „the state takeover“ of the hydropower plant in Gabcikovo wants to purchase Slovenske Elektrarne’s shares.

The Slovak energy sector has a new minister Peter Ziga, a well-known politician from Smer and entrepreneur from Kosice. He is not an unknown person and previously worked in the energy sector. At least, over the last term, he was behind the state takeover of the hydropower plant Gabcikovo. He was then an environment minister. It seems that the new minister, who was a state secretary at the economy ministry (during this period he takes credit for the state’s repurchase of the company Transpetrol), wants to buy more than just the hydropower plant. After the session of the new cabinet held last week, he announced that he would agree with the purchase of more Slovenske Elektrarne’s shares. He opines that the strategic companies should be in the state ownership.

What’s the price?

In case of Slovenske Elektrarne, it will not be as easy as in case of Gabcikovo when his faithful companion – head of Vodohospodarska Vystavba – ensured unilateral termination of the contract on operation of the power plant with Slovenske Elektrarne. The state may purchase more shares in a Slovak dominant electricity producer. However, it will not cost peanuts. The price of the shares will be set by smart business guys from the Czech-Slovak energy holding after completion of Mochovce NPP. Nobody doubts that they are smart guys. The state will probably be unable to use blackmailing tactics like in case of Italian owner of Slovenske Elektrarne over the past years. Czech-Slovak guys will decide about the shares they are willing to sell to the state and their price which will be profitable for them.

Will politics hamper the purchase?

The political problem may still hamper the purchase of Slovenske Elektrarne’s shares. One coalition partner, Most-Hid, was strongly convinced before the elections that the state should not own such shares. It has been proved many times that the state is a bad owner. However, in regard to Most Hid’s current political power, it is unlikely that its opinion will make any difference in the purchase of Slovenske Elektrarne’s shares, particularly when the second strongest ruling party would like to nationalise even strategic ice cream shops.

Gabcikovo landmine

It must be said that in case of the hydropower plant Gabcikovo, there is a land-mine. The state has taken the power plant under its wings for free but is facing hundreds of millions defeat. Slovenske Elektrarne, which was owned, or is still owned by Italy’s Enel, is ready to win the international trial worth nearly 600 million euros. If the company succeeds, the environment ministry chair will be occupied by another frightened minister, but this defeat worth hundreds of millions euros will be put on the CV of the new economy minister. It would be quite interesting to follow the end of one shopping maniac if Slovak politicians had material accountability which one politician has been yelping about for a few months. Needless to say, if the state eventually succeeds at international court and wins roughly 500 million euros, the era of the shopping maniac could yet start.

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