18 July 02 – Czech Minister of Trade and Industry Jiri Rusnok reiterated Wednesday that the new government won’t sell leading utility CEZ AS for at least two years while it restructures the company and develops a new energy policy for the country, news agency CTK reported.

Rusnok said the government doesn’t view selling CEZ as being financially important and that it must decide what kind of strategic partner is best for the country’s leading producer of energy.

The former government of Milos Zeman tried and failed in January to sell off the state’s transmission, distribution and generation stakes. The tender was pulled when bids disappointed on terms and price.

But the new center-left government led by Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said it will go slowly on privatizations during the first two years and that it will focus on obtaining revenue from other sources to finance the state budget.

Rusnok, who previously served in the outgoing government as finance minister, also reiterated that he plans to meet with the head of petrochemical company Agrofert AS in the coming two weeks to discuss the company’s planned acquisition of petrochemical holding company Unipetrol AS (R.UNI) from the state.

Agrofert was selected as the winner of a tender for the government’s stake in Unipetrol in December, but has yet to win regulatory approval for the deal or pay Euro361 million for the stake.

Rusnok said the government will assess what to do if Agorfert is no longer interested in Unipetrol, the CTK report said.

There has been widespread speculation in the media that the closely held Agrofert cannot come up with money to complete the deal or has decided not to complete the transaction. The state’s regulatory agency, or UHOS, has repeatedly said it has not received all necessary documents from Agrofert relating to the acquisition of Unipetrol.

Unipetrol is the country’s leading petrochemical group with refineries, gas stations and companies producing asphalt and chemicals.

Around 1030 GMT, shares of CEZ were up 2.9 per cent on the day at 86.9 koruna ($1=CZK29.52) a share, while Unipetrol shares were unchanged on the day at CZK38.