November 30, 2017 / 1:07 PM / in a year

Slovenia hopes to get EU agreement on NLB privatisation delay by year-end

LJUBLJANA, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Slovenia hopes to reach an agreement with the European Commission by the end of the year on delaying the privatisation of its largest bank Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB), its finance minister said on Thursday.

Slovenia agreed to sell a majority stake in state-owned NLB by the end of 2017 in exchange for the European Commission’s approval of state aid to the bank in 2013.

But in June the government abandoned the planned sale of a 50 percent stake, saying the expected price, which valued the whole of NLB at a minimum of 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), was too low.

Slovenia is now proposing to name an independent caretaker for NLB in exchange for getting the Commission’s approval to delay the bank’s privatisation.

The Commission rejected Slovenia’s proposal in October to delay the sale by three years and the government did not say what its new proposal on a delay would be.

Finance Minister Mateja Vranicar Erman said the government had in recent years made changes to erase political influence on state firms, such as handing over the management of such firms to state-owned investment fund Slovenian Sovereign Holding.

“We can no longer talk about politics having an influence on management of (state) companies,” Vranicar told a news conference.

Vranicar said that the European Commission agreed that the government’s proposal for an independent caretaker of NLB was “a good starting point towards searching for a compromise”.

The European Commission did not comment on Slovenia’s proposal but said a partial sale of NLB “is an important commitment to ensure the bank’s long-term viability”. ($1 = 0.8445 euros) (Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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