Serbia accuses PWC

BELGRADE (Reuters) – A Serbian government commission in charge of selling a sugar plant to a Greek buyer accused the plant’s financial adviser yesterday of failing to submit in time possible new data that might have affected the price. The commission also sought advice from the government on how to proceed in talks with the Hellenic Sugar Industry (EBZ), the sole bidder for a 70 percent stake in Serbia’s Crvenka sugar refinery. «The commission regrets the unprofessional work of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which had not submitted in time, to the Privatization Agency, possible new data on the state of capital and output volume at the Crvenka plant,» the commission, in charge of negotiating with EBZ, said in a statement. Serbia’s Privatization Agency, which is owned by the state, later issued a statement ordering PriceWaterhouseCoopers to submit by Nov. 22 an updated report on Crvenka’s financial data for 2002 and said it would make a final decision on November 26. The agency said the additional report should shed more light on what turned out to be the adviser’s recommendation to the government to drop EBZ’s bid. The allegation came amid reports that 2002 output in Serbia, which imported sugar for much of the past decade to meet its needs, may rise as much as 70 percent, boosting the financial results of sugar plants. EBZ offered 11.9 million euros ($11.91 million) for the stake. Industry sources said the price offer may have been low because the plant was expected to produce nearly 60,000 metric tons of sugar this year, up from 35,000 tons in 2001, a result that could boost its price.

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