Abanka Privatisation May Be Suspended Pending Bailout Investigation

By , 12 Jun 2019, 10:30 AM Business
Abanka Privatisation May Be Suspended Pending Bailout Investigation abanka.si

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STA, 11 June 2019 - Coalition parties are mostly in favour of somehow suspending the privatisation of Abanka, although opinions differ and at least some advocate the position that commitments must be honoured. In any case, it appears that the government will have the final say.

Abanka is supposed to be privatised by the end of the month according to commitments Slovenia made in exchange for EU clearance of state aid. But just weeks before the due date Prime Minister Marjan Šarec cast doubt on the procedure by calling for a re-examination of the commitments.

His party, the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), thinks it is necessary to clarify what went on in the run-up to the bailout, a reference to ongoing police investigations of the circumstances of the 2013 bailout.

"We'll see what goes on in the coming days and weeks. But these are things that cannot be resolved fast. The government will have to adopt a position and we have to clarify what had been going on," LMŠ deputy group leader Brane Golubović said on Tuesday.

Similarly, the Social Democrats (SD) think a reconsideration is in order. The government should "decide whether to carry out the sale or not, and whether to negotiate new terms with the Commission at least until court procedures regarding the correctness of the calculation of the bank capital shortfall are ongoing," deputy group chair Matjaž Han said.

The Modern Centre Party (SMC) shares the SD's opinion. "We advocate the position that the government should reconsider and, if necessary, stop the sale," deputy group leader Igor Zorčič said, adding that his party was "against unnecessarily selling state assets".

Only the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) thinks obligations Slovenia made should be honoured. "The state has made some commitments regarding the bank and will probably have to realise them," the party said, but added that it would still be good if Slovenia had one state-owned bank.

The SAB, led by Alenka Bratušek, prime minister during the bailout, pointed out the coalition agreement said the government would try to convince Brussels it did not have to sell Abanka. But since the Finance Ministry has to its knowledge not yet launched the talks, "this indicates that we will probably sell Abanka".

Given that Slovenia has managed to rescue its banks with its own money and the economy without the intervention of the troika, the right approach could result in the Commission not insisting on the sale, the SAB believes.

The Finance Ministry would not comment on the issue.

The privatisation of Abanka had been considered a foregone conclusion until last Friday when Šarec cast doubt on the plan by saying on Twitter that SSH, which manages equity in companies on behalf of the state, may have to reconsider the move.

The tweet came after the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija aired a documentary about the 2013 bailout a day earlier, raising questions in particular about the role of the European Commission in ordering that junior creditors of three banks be wiped out.

SSH said yesterday it had to stick to the commitment to sell Abanka, which Slovenia made when it received clearance for state aid, but it also said that the government could take a final decision on the bank's sale.

The European Commission has said it expects Slovenia to honour its commitments.

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