ECONOMY

Romanian copper firm sold

LONDON (Reuters) – The holding company for Romania’s largest copper smelter and refinery plants has been sold to Cyprus-based firm Robiteck Limited for an undisclosed amount, a spokesman for the liquidator in charge of the plants’ assets said yesterday. The London liquidator Grant Thornton took control of the majority holdings in the Baia Mare complex, RBG Phoenix SA, and in the continuous cast rod and wire plant at Zalau, RBG Elcond, from failed UK-based metals trader RBG Resources a year ago. Grant Thornton sold RBG Romania BV, a Dutch-based holding firm whose assets include its shareholdings in RBG Phoenix and RBG Elcond for an undisclosed sum on April 14, 2003, the liquidator said in a statement. Fuzzy background But Robiteck, whose background remains unclear, has since lost the assets of RBG Phoenix. The copper smelter had racked up debts of $3 million to the state when it was placed into provisional liquidation and Romania’s asset recovery agency, the Assets Resolutions Authority of Romania (AVAB), previously said it would sell the plant to the highest bidder as a means of recouping the money. Under Romanian law the government is allowed to step in and sell the assets of a firm to which it is a creditor. Malcolm Shierson of Grant Thornton said: «Robiteck Limited were aware of the potential sale of the assets of RBG Phoenix when the sale of the shares in RBG Romania BV was concluded; this risk factor had a bearing on the amount of the purchase consideration. Indeed the auction on 26 April was the third time that these assets had been offered for auction.» The assets of RBG Elcond, however, remain intact, the spokesman said. The identity of the new owner of the assets of RBG Phoenix was not revealed and AVAB could not be reached for comment. However, there is the potential for Robiteck, which owns the land on which RBG Phoenix is sited, to work with the new owners of the smelter, an industry source said. Baia Mare has a yearly capacity to produce 40,000 tons of copper cathode, billets and plates, while the Zalau plant has a maximum capacity of 60,000 tons. RBG Elcond has traditionally used material from RBG Phoenix, Grant Thornton said.