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Bidders for shipping company cut down to three

  • 2001-02-22
  • TBT staff
RIGA - The Latvian government approved the list of potential bidders for the privatization of a 68 percent stake in the Latvian Shipping Company on Feb. 13. Three companies made it on to the list.

In total six bidders had applied. One of them was excluded for not meeting privatization regulations while two others only filed an application to participate, but without submitting other documents.

It was decided to keep the names of the bidders confidential, government representatives said. The three bidders will now be invited to sign a confidentiality agreement and pay a $5,000 deposit in order to receive the privatization-documents package.

Although independent observers from the international anti-corruption watchdog agency Transparency International said that the shipping company's privatization process had so far contained no breaches, the parliamentary opposition is still suspicious.

On Feb. 16, the Social Democrats asked for a no-confidence vote against Economics Minister Aigars Kalvitis over alleged illegalities in the privatization process. The Social Democrats believe that several violations have been made during the company's sell-off process such as the failure to comply with provisions in government regulations and Latvian Privatization Agency rules.

Parliament is likely to discuss the no-confidence move on Feb. 22, but it is expected to fail because the opposition has only 36 seats out of 100 in the Saeima.

The first stage of the privatization of the Latvian Shipping Company, one of the world's largest oil transporters, has proceeded in line with the regulations and international business principles therefore no important breaches were detected, representatives from Delna, Transparency International's Latvian branch, told journalists Feb. 15.

Delna Board Chairwoman Inese Voika said the government's meeting of Feb. 13, which was observed by Delna, showed the government was acting within its competence in approving the long list of bidders.

Voika noted that the subtle involvement of the government in the privatization process indicates excessive politicization of the issue because it isn't in line with the division of governmental functions. However, Delna doesn't regard the government's involvement as negative because the issue had already been politicized before the launch of the sell-off process this year.

Raita Karnite, Delna's expert and director of the Latvian Economics Institute told journalists that the privatization of the company has been used to inflame political tensions. "The public has been misinformed in this respect, and any talk about the government falling over the Latvian Shipping Company's privatization is delirious," Karnite said.

Speaking about confidentiality of information, she said that the number of bidders, due to economic considerations, shouldn't have been made public either.

"It may affect the price at the auction," she said.