PPC closer to Bobov Dol

SOFIA – A Bulgarian court said yesterday it had overturned a government decision to cancel the sale of a thermal power plant, for which Greece’s Public Power Corp (PPC) had tendered the highest bid. The ruling opens the door for PPC to buy 100 percent of the 630-megawatt coal-fired power plant at Bobov Dol in western Bulgaria. In May, the previous Cabinet of Simeon Saxe-Coburg scrapped the tender, citing lower-than-expected offers, in a move that dealt a blow to Bulgaria’s efforts to sell energy assets and present an inviting investment climate ahead of its planned entry to the European Union in 2007. The new Socialist government says the sale was wrongly stopped. «The court has overturned the decision by the director of the privatization agency to cancel a public tender for the sale of 100 percent of the Bobov Dol power plant,» the Supreme Administrative Court said in a statement. «The court will return the documentation to the privatization agency, which should announce a new decision.» PPC entered the highest bid of 105.2 million euros ($126 million) in cash and investment. The only other bidder, Italy’s Enel, offered 149,000 euros. Earlier this month, the agency said it wanted to open talks with PPC on the sale but would wait for the court’s decision, because prosecutors had ordered the state to cease all activity around the sale. Under Bulgaria’s judicial system, the independent prosecutor’s office has the right to halt business proceedings if it believes that laws have been broken. The cancellation of the sale was hailed by miners who feared massive layoffs because PPC was not obliged to buy local coal. But PPC and energy experts say Bobov Dol was buying coal at inflated prices, and analysts have said the deal may have been stopped due to political interference by parties close to the mines. The privatization agency said it would begin talks with PPC once the deadline for further appeals expires in 14 days but only after investigating the miners’ concerns. «The court’s decision means that if there are no other appeals, we will start talks with PPC,» said Todor Nikolov, head of the privatization agency. «Before these talks, however, we will meet with the trade unions to discuss their proposals on the deal.»