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Dec 11, 2007 13:26 EEST
BELGRADE (Serbia), December 11 (SeeNews) – Serbia has started talks with an Austrian consortium for the sale of its debt-laden copper mining and smelting complex RTB Bor, the Privatisation Agency in Belgrade said on Tuesday.
On December 10 the Privatisation Agency notified the bidders of the ranking of their offers and informed the first-ranked bidder about the start of negotiations on the signing of a contract, the government's asset-selling agency said in a statement.
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Earlier this month, Serbia ranked the consortium comprising Austria’s A-Tec Minerals and Metals Holding GmbH, A-Tec Industries AG and Montanwerke Brixlegg AG as the top bidder in the tender.
The consortium had offered to pay $466 million (317 million euro) for RTB Bor, outbidding the other candidate in the tender, Strikeforce Mining and Resources (SMR) Ltd company, which had offered to pay $370 million. SMR is part of Basic Element group owned by Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska.
The deadline for signing the contract is 30 days after the bidders were informed about the tender results, the statement said. The Privatisation Agency has the right to extend this period by 30 days.
This is the second tender for RTB Bor. Serbia's government launched it on August 31 after cancelling a $400 million deal for the sale of the copper complex to Romanian company Cuprom because the buyer had failed to pay the required bank guarantees in time. The Serbian government set the starting price in the second tender at $340 million and required a minimum investment of $180 million in RTB Bor.
The copper group is burdened with some $400 million in outstanding debt accumulated during the international economic sanctions against former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The group, which is the biggest employer in Serbia's eastern region of Bor, has some 8,700 employees and almost one-fourth of them must be laid off before the sale is wrapped up.
The World Bank initially insisted that the copper mine should be closed as its outdated equipment and obsolete technology were a risk to the environment and the lives of some 65,000 people in eastern Serbia but later revised its position.
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