BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia’s state monopoly Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) said yesterday eight of its firms have decided to separate from the mother company in line with EPS restructuring plans due to be completed in 2004. EPS plans to shed all businesses that have no direct links with power production but have found their place under its umbrella to benefit from state protection under the rule of Slobodan Milosevic, ousted in 2000. The eight firms have agreed to form 12 new companies, EPS said in a statement. «This will complete the first phase of the program of the rationalization and restructuring of EPS, in line with the 2003 business plan,» it added. It said it would continue the process in 2004, expecting to reduce the number of workers by 13,000 from around 51,000. In June, it hived off underground mines with 5,300 workers. Last month, EPS General Manager Ljubomir Geric announced the company would shed eight firms and then a further 12, which a study showed were capable of surviving on their own.