PPC’s bid for Bulgarian power plant affected by protesting miners

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s privatization agency chose Russia’s Unified Energy Systems (UES) yesterday to buy the country’s Varna and Rousse thermal power plants for 757 million euros in cash and investment. But the agency said it had not yet made a decision on a bid for a third power plant in the town of Bobov Dol, for which Greece’s Public Power Corporation (PPC) has offered 105.3 million euros. «The two deals (Varna and Rousse) should be approved by the supervisory board of the privatisation agency,» the agency said in a statement. UES has offered 578.8 million euros in cash and a required capital hike through 2007 for the 1,260-megawatt coal-fired plant at the Black Sea city of Varna, and 178.2 million for the 400-megawatt plant in Rousse, in northern Bulgaria. The Russian company’s offers far exceeded those filed by rival firms, which include Czech CEZ, Italy’s Enel, and PPC, and beat analyst forecasts that the three sales combined would bring a total 250 million euros. But the sale of Bobov Dol has hit a political roadblock ahead of June 25 general elections. Workers at adjacent mines have called for its halt, fearing massive layoffs if the new owners stop buying local coal. «We are considering canceling the privatization process (for Bobov Dol), mainly due to the unsatisfactory price and protests by miners,» the source, who wished not to be named, told Reuters. PPC Chairman Ioannis Paleokrassas has said the company does not plan to invest further to maintain Bobov Dol, and that it will operate its three units until 2014 before closing them.