Serb state assets bring in 390 mln

BELGRADE (Combined reports) – Serbia’s massive privatization of state-run companies has netted 390 million euros ($464.72 million) this year, an official said yesterday. The complete or partial sales of 501 companies – 204 through auctions, 15 via public tenders and 282 with sales of majority stakes – has helped accelerate the planned economic reforms and will continue in 2006, said Miodrag Djordjevic, the head of Serbia’s privatization agency. The Balkan republic, still recovering from decades of communism and the international sanctions during the 1990s rule of Slobodan Milosevic, has also secured another 118.2 million euros ($140.8 million) in expected investments as part of the privatization agreements, Djordjevic said. «In 2006, we plan to sell another 300 firms and enterprises,» including an oil refinery near Belgrade, a major beer brewery and several shipping and transport companies. Much of the formerly dominant state-run sector went bankrupt during the 1990s, due to the international isolation and mismanagement. Some have been revived through the privatization process after being taken over by domestic or foreign investors. Still, nearly 200 state-run companies are currently undergoing a bankruptcy procedure and the agency is trying to sell their remaining assets and prevent further losses, Djordjevic said. Economy Minister Predrag Bubalo said the privatization program was accelerated in the second half of 2005 after the government made a number of companies more attractive to buyers by writing off the companies’ outstanding debts to the state. Separately, the Serbian Statistics Bureau said the country’s economy is expected to grow by a real 6.5 percent this year, with the trade, transport and financial services sectors leading the expansion. The country’s gross domestic product, calculated in constant prices, expanded by a revised 9.3 percent in 2004. The statistics office said in a statement that the agriculture and tourism sectors shrank in 2005. Agricultural output fell by an estimated 5.3 percent. (AP, SeeNews)