ECONOMY

Basescu calls for delaying sell-offs of utility firms

BUCHAREST (AP) – Romania’s President Traian Basescu called yesterday for a delay in privatizing utility companies such as natural gas producer Romgaz to give authorities time to analyze the effects of past sell-offs. «I have asked the industry minister (Codrut Seres) to not accelerate privatizations in the energy sector,» he said, before departing for a visit to Libya. He added that planned privatizations of state-owned companies such as Romgaz would resume after analyzing the results of the sale of Romania’s main oil company Petrom to Austria’s OMV in 2004. The Austrian company paid about 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) for a 51 percent stake in Petrom. Basescu’s comments come after OMV Petrom clashed with gas distributors in recent weeks after it demanded price hikes for Romanian gas. Seres responded that the sale of Romgaz, the country’s second-largest gas producer after OMV Petrom, was not a priority. «We have other priorities for privatization, including automaker Daewoo Automobile Craiova, chemical company Oltchim and companies in the defense industry,» Seres said. Last week, authorities raised prices to most consumers by 8.5 percent, citing the higher cost of gas and the need to align domestic prices with international levels.