Bulgaria extends power plant deadline

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s privatization agency has delayed the deadline for the sale of a coal-fired power plant to Russia’s Unified Energy System (UES) for a fourth time, the agency said yesterday. The agency said it extended the previous September 19 deadline by 10 working days in order to resolve institutional questions regarding the country’s regulatory energy framework, and that the talks should now be finalized by October 3. «The decision was made to allow the parties to reach a mutually acceptable decision and conclude the negotiations,» the privatization agency said in a statement. UES won a tender to buy 100 percent of the 1,260-megawatt Varna plant on the Black Sea and the 400-megawatt Rousse unit in May, but is now negotiating only for Varna, worth 578.8 million euros ($707.9 million). The Balkan state’s anti-monopoly body ruled in July that UES could buy only one of the two thermal power plants – a decision later appealed by the privatization agency but not by UES. The agency said it had also extended the deadline for talks over the plant in Rousse until the court has made a final ruling. A tender for a third plant, Bobov Dol, in which Greece’s Public Power Corp (PPC) placed the highest bid, has been scrapped. Earlier this week, Energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov said there should be no more delays in the talks with UES, at least for the acquisition of the Varna plant, which should either be sealed or canceled. Other competitors for the plants included Czech firm CEZ, Italy’s Enel and PPC. If UES purchases neither of the two, Bulgaria can either launch negotiations with CEZ, which offered the second-highest bids for the two plants, or cancel the tenders.