April 27, 2020 / 5:21 PM / a month ago

Poland should aim to merge state-run companies, minister says

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland should continue to merge state-run companies to strengthen its economy, which will struggle to rebound after the coronavirus epidemic, State Assets Minister Jacek Sasin said on Monday.

Earlier on Monday, state-run Polish refiner PKN Orlen (PKN.WA) completed its takeover of state-run utility Energa (ENGP.WA), as part of PKN’s drive to become a multi-energy group.

PKN also plans to take over smaller rival Lotos (LTSP.WA), if it receives approval from the European Commission.

“Consolidating state companies is the right direction. One has to create big, strong players, which, once their investment budgets are combined, will be able to implement bold and ambitious projects, develop and compete in the European market,” Sasin said in a statement.

“PKN has not said its final word” when it comes to takeovers, Sasin added on a video conference.

The minister also suggested Poland should have greater control over the economy to fight the crisis caused by the epidemic.

“For many years we have been told that the state should not be present in the economy ... that it is something bad when the state is the owner. We were told that capital has no nationality and that it is good if there is a lot of foreign capital,” Sasin said.

“Today, in light of the events that surround us, we see how faulty these theories were,” he said.

Since coming to power in 2015, the ruling Law and Justice party has increased control over Poland’s banking and energy sectors.

Last week, it said it planned to tighten rules regarding takeovers of Polish companies by investors from outside the European Union.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Anna Koper; Editing by Mark Potter

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