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Privatization or Liquidation
ECONOMYThe Authority for State Assets Recovery (ASAR) will have to sell by year-end some 133 state-owned companies or else these will have to file for bankruptcy
CATALIN BUDESCUOnce the privatization process will end, ASAR will turn into a national company, and later on into a private-public company specialized in cashing in debts. Mircea Ursache, president of ASAR, said yesterday that "The Romanian state will hold the majority stake in this company, with 51% of the shares, while the rest of 49% will be privately owned." He thinks that companies which already specialize in recuperating bad loans will be interested to place their money in the new companyâs stock. He is for the state to stay the main share-holder, most likely via the Ministry of Finance. Thus, by way of this evolution, ASAR will come to take over a larger range of debts, including those from private commercial banks.
No Company To Be Nationalized Back"No matter what, no company which was privatized will go back under state ownership. The state will not pay even one more penny for these companies," stated Ursache.
He said that the newly adopted legislation allows for a quick transfer to other investors of shares belonging to privatized companies. Ursache also stated that ASAR will succeeded in cashing in and bringing back to state coffers the bad loans left behind by Bancorex and the Banca Agricola banks, which amount to over 800 million dollars.
The non-performing credits (or sheer debts to the state budget) stayed at four billion dollars in 1999, when the company preceding ASAR was created.
Where To, the Aro Company?The privatizing of Aro Campulung car maker, which was bought by Crosslander, is under the scrutiny of the Court for Public Accounts. The court looks into the privatization deal signed last year. "One thing is certain, if Crosslander will not pay the October installment according to the privation deal, we will call the deal off and annul the privatization," said Ursache.
Litigation Is OnThe American company Noble Ventures, which held the majority stake in the CS Resita steel maker, raised at 350 million dollars its claim for reimbursement from the Romanian state. Romania called the deal off following massive trade-union protests. Nobel Ventures filed a suit against the Romanian state with the Court for Arbitration of the World Bank.
State Funding to Bail Out Companies Is Worth 3.1% of the GDPLat year the Competition Council awarded state funding to help bailing out companies, which amounted to 3.1% of the GDP. "During 2001 that state funding was the highest, staying at 6.3% of the GDP; some 49% of that money went to state-owned companies," said Jozsef Nemenyi, councilor with the Competition Council. He also said that EU countries use 1.5% of their GDP to bail out companies on the brink of bankruptcy, and that Romania tries hard to bring its number down to 2%, by 2007, when Romania is supposed to join the EU.
Translation: ANCA PADURARU