EPIC: Slovakia faces tough task selling nuclear plants

SLOVAKIA has little chance of selling its two nuclear power plants as part of its privatisation of electricity utility Slovenské Elektrárne (SE), a representative from a leading consultancy for privatisation and investments in central and eastern Europe said February 17.

"The current chances [of selling the nuclear power plants] are almost zero," Peter Goldscheider from the European Privatisation Investment Corporation (EPIC) told the TASR news agency.

Goldscheider said that it is unlikely anyone will want to buy SE if the nuclear plants are included in the package, unless the utility is sold to a company already using nuclear power, such as Electricite de France (EdF) or Spain's Iberdrola.

At the same time, however, Goldscheider said that privatising SE without the nuclear facilities is not a good option, as it could lead to debt problems.

He said that instead the company should be divided into subsidiaries, each of which would then be subject to a thorough internal audit.

"All forms of internal funding and other factors should be considered and only then should the sale go ahead," Goldscheider said.

He believes that in choosing a buyer, the government should first negotiate with the three respected European energy companies already present in Slovakia: EdF and German companies E.ON and RWE, which own 49 per cent stakes in the electricity distributors for western, central, and eastern Slovakia respectively.

Two of the four reactors at Jaslovské Bohunice, in the west, are due to be retired between 2006 and 2008 under an agreement with the European Union, while a decision has yet to be taken on the completion of reactors three and four at Mochovce in the southwest. There is also uncertainty over the future of the former A-1 nuclear plant near Bohunice.

There are currently seven bidders for SE: E.ON, EdF, British Energy, International Power (Britain), Italy's Enel, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank.