The Ukrainian State Property Fund (SPF) will offer a 99.567% stake in the Odessa Port Plant (OPP) for privatisation for UAH13.175bn ($527mn) during a tender on July 26, it announced, while officials on June 13 warned Russian interests against trying to participate in the deal.
Marking the official start of the sale procedure, the tender's deposit was set at UAH658.75mn ($26mn) with bids to increase in increments of UAH200mn ($8mn). Companies and persons from Russia and other individuals blacklisted by Ukrainian authorities are barred from bidding, although SPF head Ihor Bilous predicted Russian attempts to infiltrate the sale since the chemical production plant is the key transport route for ammonia from the Russian Federation.
"I have no doubts that they will try to take part in the competition. Another question is how we will deal with these attempts," Bilous told the Dilova Stolytsia newspaper. "There are not many relevant investors, we know them all. For Russians such a plant is important in terms of gas consumption and the position in the chemical market."
However, if a fraud is unveiled after privatisation, then "it will be a sufficient reason to nationalise this company - the sales contract will be valid for international arbitration as well", Bilhous added.
After months of dawdling, Ukrainian authorities say they intend to finalise the sale before August in the first significant deal of the government's privatisation drive that was initially planned for 2015.
Bilous also told reporters in Kyiv that at least seven companies are showing serious interest in buying the plant. "We expect that five more potential investors will confirm their interest," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. "There are no accidental names among them."
Hard hit by Ukraine's economic crisis and financial meltdown of the past two years, OPP accounts for 17% of Ukraine's ammonium nitrate capacity and 19% of its urea production capacity. Due to its strategic location on the Black Sea coast and connections to chemical transportation infrastructure, the plant is export-oriented: export sales constitute up to 85% of output, while the major export destinations are the EU and US.
Under a case brought by Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce in April ordered OPP to refrain from alienation or encumbrance in any way of its non-current assets until August 31, 2016. The government maintains that the move does not undermine the privatisation of large state-owned companies, with OPP as the centrepiece of the drive.
OPP's recent performance has also not enhanced its lustre, with the plant reporting a net loss of UAH418.649mn ($16.5mn) in January-March. Net income fell by 1.9 times to UAH1.719bn ($6.8mn) in the first quarter, while gross profit fell by 6.4 times to UAH99.935bn ($3.95mn).
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