September 21 (SeeNews) - Bus maker BredaMenarinibus, part of Italian defence, aerospace and transportation group Finmeccanica, is offering to lease its Serbian state-owned peer Ikarbus for a period of two years, not ruling out a possible take-over at a later stage, Serbian media reported.
Representatives of the Bologna-based company and top officials from Serbia's Economy Ministry have agreed to set up a meeting over the next 15 days to work out the details of the lease contract, news outlet Blic (www.blic.rs) reported over the weekend, quoting the BredaMenarinibus representative for Serbia, Danilo Jovanovic.
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Earlier this month, Serbia said it has cancelled the sale of its largest bus manufacturer, idled by a strike over wage arrears since July, to Russia's Avtodetal Service over contractual breaches. Last year, the Russian company paid 7.2 million euro ($10.6 million) for 39.2% of Ikarbus. It later raised its stake to 49.4% and was planning to become majority shareholder through a capital hike, according to local media.
The Italian company is proposing to manufacture 400 buses at Ikarbus over the lease period, Blic said.
The lease is the first step towards a possible take-over once the two-year arrangement expires, Jovanovic told Blic, adding that the option to buy will be explored only if the government disposes of Ikarbus land property that is not essential for the production process.
Besides a 7.0-hectare factory site Ikarbus also owns a further 2.8 hectares of land that BredaMenarinibus suggests be sold as it would fetch a good price and help repay some of the bus maker's current debt of around 16 million euro, Jovanovic said.
"[..] it's important to reboot production and gradually raise output while boosting headcount from, let's say, 150 to the 350 workers that will be needed in total. It's absolutely unnecessary to have 700 workers as half of them are redundant," Jovanovic told Blic.
BredaMenarinibus is also offering to provide the necessary working capital so that Ikarbus could host the entire manufacturing process from the chassis to the bus electronics and not simply assemble parts shipped from Italy as was previously the case.