March 3, 2016 / 4:51 PM / in 3 years

INTERVIEW-NWR ownership change does not alter Czech opposition to aid - PM

PRAGUE, March 3 (Reuters) - The departure of coal miner New World Resources’ majority owners has not changed the Czech government’s stance of denying aid to the struggling firm and only helping workers who lose jobs, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Thursday.

Loss-making NWR is the owner of the Czech Republic’s only hard coal mines and has been in talks with stakeholders and the government to avoid a collapse due to depressed coal prices.

NWR said last week 50.5 percent shareholder CERCL, whose owners have had fractious relations with the government, would transfer its shares to the company for free to be cancelled, leaving a trio of bondholders - who already held a big stake under a previous restructuring - with 60 percent.

The bondholders said on Monday they were willing to put more money into the company if the state would provide support too.

“From my point of view, the situation does not change,” Sobotka said in an interview with Reuters.

“The government is focusing on the preparation of social programmes which would mitigate potential unemployment in the region.”

When asked about negotiations with NWR under its new owners, Sobotka said there were ministers in his cabinet designated for these talks and the task had not changed.

NWR has said it hopes to complete talks on its restructuring, which would involve closing some mines but saving the rest, in the second quarter.

NWR has a nearly 13,000-strong workforce and is a major employer in the country’s industrial northeast. (Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller; Editing by Mark Potter)

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