bne IntelliNews -
Poland will transfer up to 100% of the indebted and lossmaking coalminer Kompania Weglowa to a state-owned company TF Silesia, in which state-controlled energy companies will consider taking stakes, the Ministry of Treasury announced on September 30.
The Polish government, led by Civic Platform (PO), has been trying to come up with a solution to ensure KW would not go bankrupt, which would likely seal PO’s defeat in the election later this month. KW is the largest company of the Polish coal mining industry, centred in the politically important southern Katowice region.
By announcing the plan, the government also averted protests from the sector’s strong trade unions, which have repeatedly threatened strikes and protests should a plan to save KW not emerge quickly.
The plan assumes transferring KW stakes to TF Silesia, an arrangement, which, according to the treasury, would facilitate investment in TF Silesia by state-controlled power utilities PGE and Energa, as well as by gas company PGNiG.
“This is the first step towards safe inclusion of outside investors [to TF Silesia] and creation of the so-called Nowa Kompania Weglowa. PGE and Energa have started analysing the project, as they are interested in building strong fuel and energy groups on the basis of KW,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry’s words suggest intensive talks have been held backstage with the state-controlled energy firms that so far have been opposed to the government’s ideas of rescuing KW. The companies may have been playing a waiting game before the government changed after the election, but the new government will not come up with any new ideas for solving the problems of coal mining in Poland, according to experts.
"It will be the next government that will have to take [the problem] on, but it will not have any options other than those tried by the current government," Zbigniew Porczyk at DM Trigon told bne IntelliNews on September 24.
"There are three options: restructuring, which PiS is unlikely to do; keeping the sector alive somehow – which increases the danger of an eventual uncontrollable bankruptcy; and integrating mining with the energy sector."
"So far, the power companies have said no to the latter, but managements and supervisory boards are replaceable," he added.
KW has consistently warned it is on the edge of bankruptcy and needs PLN1.5bn (€355mn) swiftly. However, Warsaw has grown increasingly desperate as a series of schemes to raise the cash have foundered one after the other. The current plan for KW comes after the Polish government withdrew the previous plan in the face of likely objections from the European Commission.
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