Indian owner of loss-making Bulgarian steelmaker is expected to postpone its sale by three to six months

SOFIA (AFP) – Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov said yesterday that the Indian owner of the region’s largest steelmaker Kremikovtzi would most probably postpone its sale for three to six months. India’s Global Steel Holdings of Pramod Mittal, the younger brother of steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, announced in late January that it was close to selling its 71 percent stake in the loss-making plant to Ukrainian billionaire Constantin Jevago. However, in talks on Thursday, Mittal said he planned to seek advice from consultants and «sell Kremikovtzi within three to six months,» Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov told Nova TV. Meanwhile, local press reports said three other major investors had expressed an interest – the giant United States Steel Corp, Ukraine’s Metinvest, owned by tycoon Rinat Akhmetov, and another Russian company whose name was not given. Kremikovtzi’s management board separately argued against any delay, saying that Jevago was the only investor who had come up with a concrete offer, confirming his engagement to invest in much-needed environmental upgrades at the polluting plant. Kremikovtzi’s over 5,600 workers also pressed for a swift deal and staged daily protests this week against a delay in salaries. Built during communist rule on the outskirts of Sofia, Kremikovtzi has an annual production capacity of 1.4 million tons of steel and accounts for 10 percent of Bulgaria’s exports. A 71 percent stake in the factory was sold in 1999 for a token price of one dollar to Bulgaria’s Finmetals group, the government kept 25 percent and the remaining 4 percent went to individual investors. The plant was then acquired by Global Steel Holdings in 2005.