Poland mulls selling JSW stake to hit privatisation target

By bne IntelliNews September 26, 2012

Tim Gosling in Prague -

Despite insistence from the Treasury Ministry that the Polish government is well within reach of hitting its PLN10bn (€2.4bn) revenue target from privatisation in 2012, Warsaw is discussing offloading a 22% stake in yet another blue chip, the EU's largest coking coalminer Jastrzebska Spolka Weglowa (JSW), an official said on September 25.

Speaking in an interview on TVN CNBC, Deputy Minister Pawel Tamborski said that the state could cut its interest in the company from the current 56% to 34% without losing control, and is currently discussing such a sale with the economy ministry, which has the final say on the mining sector, despite the Treasury holding state assets.

"In our opinion, and that's the discussion we've launched with the economy ministry, 34% would be enough for the Treasury to control the situation among shareholders," Tamborski said, according to Reuters. While the potential availability of a JSW stake may be of interest to Czech mining peer New World Resources (NWR), which was linked with a merger with JSW earlier this year, the intention of Warsaw to maintain control will do little to attract a strategic investor.

Meanwhile, Tamborski's boss, Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski, separately told the PAP news agency that Warsaw is close to fulfilling this year's privatisation programme following the sales last week of Emilia Furniture for PLN115m, the Mining Information Centre (COIG) for PLN70m, and software maker Centralny Osrodek Informatyki Gornictwa to strategic investors. "We have already implemented over 80% of the plan so I hope that the sector privatization, the IPO of the ZE PAK and, hopefully, the PHN property holding offer will let us implement this year's assumptions," he said.

Budzanowski also said more sales of minor companies to strategic investors are planned before the end of the year.

Tamborski fell into step with the government line, insisting that, having passed the PLN8bn mark with last week's sales, the Treasury feels no pressure to achieve the target. That's a sentiment which runs somewhat counter to the difficulties Poland has met in completing asset sales on the turbulent markets this year however, and also ignores the fact that it was forced to rely on selling off the family silver for the bulk of the revenue, with stakes in blue chips PGE and PKO sold in accelerated book building earlier this year for a combined total of around PLN5.5bn.

The privatization of PHN was pulled earlier this year due to a lack of interest from investors in the hurriedly assembled collection of variable quality real estate assets, and a successful listing in Warsaw looks anything but guaranteed. Meanwhile the IPO of ZE Pak has been delayed by negotiations with Elektrim - which currently owns 47% of the utility - over amendments to the original privatization agreement. In addition, a plan to sell off all state held assets in the chemicals sector transformed into consolidation into a giant state-controlled holding in a circling of the wagons against Russian bids.

Budzanowski said that accelerated sales of stakes in JSW, insurer PZU and another slice of PKO are possible by the end of 2013. The government unveiled a PLN15bn privatization programme for 2012-13 in April.

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