Polish gov’t asks EBRD for help over PZU
POLAND - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is looking at how it might help resolve the conflict over the privatisation of Polish insurance giant PZU.
"We have been approached indirectly by the Polish government via a Polish board member at our organisation and we have agreed to help", a spokesman for the EBRD confirmed to IPE.
The new Polish government, which has been in place since the end of November, is taking its first step towards finding a solution to the PZU conflict with Eureko. Earlier governments had promised to privatize the insurance giant but the Polish state still holds over 50% of the shares.
The EBRD noted it was not yet sure what kind of help it can offer but the spokesman added "we are discussing various possibilities".
That said, he could not comment on speculation in Polish media about the EBRD becoming a shareholder in PZU.
The bank, created in 1991 to help Eastern European countries build market economies, bought a 20% stake in Slovenian pension provider Prva pokojninska druzba (PPD) this year. (See earlier IPE article: EBRD-backed Slovenian giant goes east)
Dutch insurer Eureko, which had taken the previous Polish government to court over its broken privatisation promise, said it would not comment on the involvement of the EBRD in the PZU conflict.
However, a spokeswoman told IPE: "Eureko is very pleased that the Polish government wishes to find an amicable solution to the conflict".
"That has always been our preferred route - as we have stated many times. We remain willing to enter into discussions at any time."
Eureko bought a 30% stake in PZU in 1999 with an option of acquiring another 21% after the privatisation, but has been in a dispute with the Polish government after it withdrew the firm's right to increase its stake and eventually reneged on plans for a privatisation. (See earlier IPE story: Outgoing gov't pulls PZU privatisation)
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