|Privatisations in Slovenia’s aviation industry in limbo|
The Slovenian Prime Minister, Alenka Bratušek, has halted all privatisations in the country until a new government is formed after a snap election on July 13, drawing a sharp response from the finance minister in her own government. The measure affects the sale of Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, Adria Airways and maintenance company Adria Airways Tehnika. Analysts say the move is aimed at raising Bratušek's popularity with voters, who generally oppose attempts to sell local companies. Finance Minister Uroš Čufer called the decision a part of "pre-election hysteria". The measure affects plans to sell off 75.5% of Ljubljana Airport. Yesterday, companies were to begin submitting binding bids for the airport. However, the completion of the sales process will have to wait until a new government is formed, which could take weeks or even months.
"We decided that no privatisation can be completed and no new privatisation can start until a new government is formed", Bratušek told a press conference. "Privatisations cannot be completed before the new government is formed so that the new government will have a chance to reconsider them". She said foreign investors were welcome in Slovenia but added the government took this step because privatisation was "the hottest pre-election topic". Equity firms have now been left guessing whether companies such as Adria Airways will even be put up for sale or whether the government will reconsider privatising the carrier.
Last year Slovenia named fifteen companies for sale, including its national carrier and busiest airport, to shore up its balance sheet following a $4.4 billion government bailout of three state owned banks in December. On Thursday, Europe's biggest construction and concessions company, Vinci, said it was bidding to buy Jože Pučnik Airport. "Vinci confirms that it is a candidate in the tender to buy Ljubljana Airport", a Vinci spokesman said. A further twenty companies are believed to be interested in purchasing the majority stake in the airport. Meanwhile, Adria Airways, whose privatisation process has now been halted by the government, is awaiting a decision by the European Commission on whether it will have to repay state aid it received between 2007 and 2011. The company initially announced a ruling was expected in the first half of June. However, it is now believed the Commission will wait for the snap election to take place in Slovenia so as to avoid influencing voters through their ruling.