Opposition motion fails; heating companies for sale
The government’s plan to sell off the last six big heating companies in the country caused debate in parliament last week, with the opposition trying to block the privatisation and municipalities clamouring to get as big a stake in the companies as possible.
Opposition party Smer-SD called for a vote in parliament to prohibit the sale of the heating companies, while accusing the government of wanting to cash in a commission on the privatisation and main coalition party SDKU of going back on its pre-election promise not to privatise state assets.
The coalition bench hit back, pointing out that the heating companies, and the whole economy, were in such a dire state thanks to the former government led by Smer-SD. There were also accusations about Smer-SD’s motives, with Stanislav Janis from SDKU saying Smer-SD was stuffed with businessmen who have been enjoying signing lucrative contracts with state companies, and so the party was merely trying to protect the interests of its sponsors.
Following the lengthy debate and heated exchanges, only 69 of 147 attending MPs backed the motion of Smer-SD, meaning the government can now steam ahead with its plan to privatise the heating companies in Bratislava, Trnava, Martin, Zvolen, Zilina and Kosice.
The government session afterwards also decided to designate just 5% stakes to the respective municipalities, while they will have the power to call general meetings. The municipalities were hoping to have control over as much as 49% stakes, but Prime Minister Iveta Radicova pointed out that they do not have the necessary finances for projected investments, which are expected to cost around EUR 750 million.
Now the acquisition race begins, as many companies had previously expressed their interest in the lucrative heating companies, hoping to get their hands on as many of them as possible and as big as stakes as possible. The government is hoping to rake in up to EUR 200 million from the sales to help fill in the huge public finance deficit that it inherited.