ECONOMY

Aluminium plant for sale

MOSTAR – The government of Bosnia’s Muslim-Croat federation and aluminium plant Aluminij Mostar signed a deal yesterday settling their ownership dispute and paving the way for the company to be sold in December. «I am convinced that we shall have everything prepared for the tender in mid-December,» Prime Minister Ahmet Hadzipasic told reporters after he signed an agreement defining the company’s ownership structure and social package for workers. Hadzipasic said that an 88 percent stake would be offered for sale for at least 160 million Bosnian marka ($105 million) to a strategic partner that will be chosen from companies that have already cooperated with Aluminij. «The tender will aim for four companies… and the best choice would be a company which has proved to be a reliable partner here,» Hadzipasic told reporters, declining however to name the companies. Swiss metals trader Glencore, an Aluminij longtime partner, has expressed interest in acquiring Bosnia’s largest exporter after it settled its row with the government. Germany’s DaimlerChrysler has also been in several deals with the plant. Aluminij’s shareholders, mostly Bosnian-Croat employees who were granted shares in the company as compensation for unpaid wages in the period after the 1992-95 war, agreed last year to share a 88 percent majority stake with the state, giving each 44 percent. Croatia’s TLM company, which helped the smelter restart production in 1997, will keep the remaining 12 percent stake. Aluminij agreed to provide social packages for prewar Muslim and Serb workers who were fired during and after the war, as requested by the government. They will be compensated after the company’s privatization. «We want to sell the company at the highest possible price but money must not be the priority,» said Aluminij’s general manager, Mijo Brajkovic. «Our proven partners should be favored in the sell-off.» Brajkovic also praised the government decision to provide Aluminij with favorable electricity prices, which has been another issue of dispute between the two parties. The company, based in the southern town of Mostar, had a record output of 120,000 tons of metal last year and exports worth 370 million Bosnian marka.