"O" day

ALINA TOMA VEREHA (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
Ziarul BURSA #English Section / 20 septembrie 2012

Everybody put your hands up!

Everybody put your hands up!

Ştefan Vuza yesterday withdrew his bid for Oltchim, to submit an improved tender today

The businessman still claims that he is being supported by three more industrial groups, "which makes him a force far greater than PCC, as well as the much-awaited bidder from Russia, which is in fact just another Romanian interest group"

The privatization of Oltchim is making the authorities nervous, which have postponed until today at 12:00, the deadline for submitting tenders. Out of the four bids submitted on Monday by PCC, Chimcomplex, Aisa Invest and Dan Diaconescu, only two were left yesterday. And there was no trace of any Russian investor.

Yesterday, the BURSA newspaper published an exclusive piece of news on its website www.bursa.ro, announcing that businessman Ştefan Vuza had withdrawn his bid for Oltchim at 11:35, which he had submitted on Monday through Aisa Invest and Chimcomplex.

Around noon, he sent us a communiqué stating that he has withdrawn his bids to submit an improved bid today: "The decision to pull the bids made by Chimcomplex and to improve the ones filed by Aisa Invest also came as the result of the statements made by Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who is misinformed about the financial strength of Chimcomplex.

We want to clarify that the tender book does not represent a prequalification criterion, and if it did, the < exotic > competitor wouldn't have been able to submit a bid, but perhaps that was precisely the purpose".

The SCR group, controlled by Ştefan Vuza, still claims that he has the support of three other Romanian industrial groups with fully Romanian capital, "being far powerful than PCC, as well as the much awaited Russian bidder, which is in fact just another Romanian group of interests".

Two days ago, the prime minister Victor Ponta commented on the privatization of Oltchim, saying that the situation of the plant is dire, because one of the bids submitted for it is "exotic" (he most likely was talking about Dan Diaconescu), and Chimcomplex was too "too small" compared to Oltchim.

Right after PM Victor Ponta made that statement, after the statement of Ponta, the SCR group announced that other industrial groups were involved in the bid for Oltchim submitted by Aisa Invest and Chimcomplex. "Those groups will be involved in the Oltchim project, all the way to the production of ethylene, as is the case with the InterAgro group", the SCR said.

Ioan Niculae, the president of InterAgro, said for BURSA: "I am interested in Oltchim. I had an on principle discussion with Ştefan Vuza who came to see me today (ed. note: on September 18th), and he has asked me to participate with him in the privatization of Oltchim. However, before making a decision to invest, I want to conduct an audit of Oltchim, to find out its real situation. I am referring to an audit paid for by me, performed by a major company, which would clearly tell me what the debts of Oltchim are, and what its financial situation is".

Ştefan Vuza said yesterday: "We believe that at this moment, we are the best option for Oltchim, because our bid is focused on keeping the jobs and keeping all the divisions of the plant operating at full capacity. Thus, through the merger of the two Romanian chemical plants, we would achieve project with full Romanian ownership, which everyone could be proud of, compared to the other areas of the economy, where the factories are being sold to foreigners and where the situation was similar to Oltchim - the smaller company bought the bigger one - OTE Greece bought Romtelecom; OMV bought Petrom; Erste bought BCR etc".

Sources close to the privatization claim that Ştefan Vuza asked the OPSPI for several clarifications concerning Oltchim and the implications of the lawsuits filed by another bidder - Dan Diaconescu. The decision made by the president of the OPSPI, Remus Vulpescu, on Monday, to postpone by three days the privatization of Oltchim was the result of three lawsuits filed by the president of the PP-DD political party, Dan Diaconescu, who has challenged in court the decision of the General Shareholder Meeting of Oltchim concerning the receivable of the AVAS and has asked the suspension and the annulment of the privatization procedure and of the privatization contract which would be concluded afterwards.

Theories involving Russians

On Monday, the head of the OPSPI announced that a company representing Gazprom and Rosneft has requested the postponement of the deadline for submitting bids for Oltchim by two weeks, in order to allow it to review the effects of the lawsuits which were filed against Oltchim in the past few days. Vulpescu had previously said that he wants the Russians to participate in the privatization of Oltchim.

However, our sources claim that the company which claims to represent the two Russian giants did not present to the OPSPI a mandate from the Russians. Thus, we understand that Ştefan Vuza that "the much awaited Russian bidder, is in fact just another group of interests Romania".

When asked if he expects Russian investors getting involved in the privatization of Oltchim, economic analyst Ionel Blănculescu said: "The claims of Ştefan Vuza about the participation of the Russians are correct. Giants like Gazprom and Rosneft don't work with juniors when doing business. A remarkable fauna of so-called businesspeople with unknown companies has arisen in Romania, which use the names of Gazprom and Rosneft, and claim that they operate as their proxies in the relationship with the state for the privatization of Oltchim".

He said that the Russian giants will not participate in a privatization conducted and designed in the manner in which that of Oltchim has been. Ionel Blănculescu doubts that Ioan Niculae will get involved in Oltchim, due to the huge debts the company has accrued and to the method of privatization selected by the OPSPI: "Ioan Niculae, the owner of InterAgro is far too clever not to see the dead-end deal which the privatization of Oltchim is".

Ponta gives his opinion on the privatization

On Tuesday night, prime minister Victor Ponta said that the privatization of Oltchim is a "social bomb which needs to be dealt with urgently", and over the last few years, minority shareholder PCC has been "acting in quite an obstructive manner". He said that no contract would be signed if the winning investor doesn't accept and pledge to comply with the requirements which concern the preservation of the line of business of the company, of the existing jobs and the investments required.

In an interview granted recently to BURSA, Mrs. Cristina Chiriac, former vice-president of the AVAS, said that the Romanian state can not impose any post-privatization terms to a buyer. She said: "Together with the adhesion and the accession of Romania in the European Union, the legislation concerning privatization saw several essential changes. I am going to give you one simple example: privatizations involving a strategic buyer, such as "Ford", are no longer possible. Thus, today we can speak of privatization contracts under competitive terms, which prevent the government from placing any restrictions on the buyer, from requiring any strategies for development, investments or social protection etc".

Prime Minister Victor Ponta said on Tuesday night that if there is going to be a clear winner on Friday, it would be impossible to sign the contract earlier than 2-3 months.

The prime minister said: "The actions of Dan Diaconescu could cause Oltchim to go bankrupt. If on Monday, which is our deadline, the privatization procedure gets suspended, Oltchim will die, especially considering that the board of the IMF is coming over".

While the statements of Victor Ponta seemed to have an effect on Ştefan Vuza, Dan Diaconescu is still putting on a show around Oltchim.

Yesterday, in the government meeting, Victor Ponta asked the minister of the Economy, Daniel Chiţoiu, to get involved directly in the privatization of Oltchim, but to avoid getting caught in the media show. The prime minister expects that the auction scheduled to take place on Friday will cause a media ruckus which the authorities don't want to star in.

The employees of Oltchim will be paid emergency welfare

The employees of Oltchim will receive 1,400 lei in welfare, in two installments, which will be paid by the Ministry of Labor. The decision was adopted by the Government yesterday to prevent further social issues.

The aid was decided based on a memorandum of the Ministry of the Economy, concerning the "mitigation of the negative social effects caused by the financial situation of Oltchim", which was presented in yesterday's government meeting.

The spokesperson of the government, Andrei Zaharescu, said: "The difficulties in securing the raw materials needed and the financial resources led to the interruption of the operations of Oltchim, the accrual of debts and delays in the payment of the employees' wages. In order to avoid the risk of social exclusion, and to avoid the occurrence of additional social issues, the memorandum proposes supporting the employees and their families by granting welfare aids in the specified amount".

He said that this is a "safety net" for a period of two-three months, until Oltchim is effectively acquired by an investor which would be selected through Friday's call for tenders.

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