Latvian privatization chief backs sale of two-thirds in LASCO

  • 2001-08-16
  • BNS
RIGA - The most acceptable option for the privatization of the shipping company Latvijas Kugnieciba (LASCO) would be to sell to an investor 68 percent in the company, said Latvian Privatization Agency's chief Janis Naglis. At a news conference on Aug. 8, he said that the ruling coalition was reviewing three suggestions as to the amount of LASCO shares to be sold to an investor - 51 percent, 68 percent and, under the latest proposal, 75 percent. Theoretically, the 75-percent option should be examined, said Naglis, as the global shipping businesses are often run by families which would be interested in acquiring a stake carrying the necessary weight in decision-making.

But it was resolved that at least 10 percent of LASCO shares should go to the special pension budget, and 6 percent are to be sold to the company's retired and current staff against privatization certificates. In addition, at least 15 percent of the shares should be offered publicly against payment in privatization certificates, and the general practice calls for 1 percent of shares to be kept in reserves "for correcting errors."Therefore, the only options envisaging a sale are for 51 percent or 68 percent of LASCO shares to be considered seriously, said the LPA head.

He said he had made his opinion known to both Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins and the task force formed by the ruling coalition for assessment of further LASCO privatization. Any government decision in the matter can only be made upon a general agreement within the task force, said Naglis. It is going to be "a decision involving great compromise and will be dissatisfactory for all parties, but nevertheless it will finally allow for some progress in LASCO's privatization,"he said.

The coalition council on July 9 failed to agree on any of LASCO's privatization options drafted by the Economics Ministry and established a task force to develop their own option which would bring maximum proceeds to the state and be regarded as the most preferable by the public. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has offered to take part in LASCO's privatization, either by extending a loan or by acquiring a stake in the shipping company. Analysts believe that this offer will boost LASCO's prestige and increase the chances of selling the company at the highest price possible. Three earlier attempts to sell off LASCO failed, and the Latvian government for several months has not been able to arrive at a decision about any further action toward privatization of the company.