Serbia on Wednesday halted the sale of troubled copper smelter RTB Bor to A-Tec Industries AG after the Austrian company asked for more time to pay, news reports said. ( dpa )
In its decision, Serbia's privatization board also recommended that the government open talks with Russian magnate Oleg Deripaska's company SMR, the runner-up bidder for Bor, local media reported.
The privatization panel "decided on this move because the Austrian company did not honour the conditions of the deal and asked for the deadlines to be postponed, and that was unacceptable," Serb Economy Minister Mladjan Dinkic told reporters.
He also cited doubts that A-Tec will have money for future investments. Serbia's cabinet is expected to make the final decision Thursday.
A-Tec has paid 150 million dollars of a 466-million-dollar sale price agreed with Serbia's government in February. A-Tec also pledged to invest 180 million dollars in the debt-laden smelting and mining company.
The Vienna-based industrial group said in a statement it was "deeply disappointed" by Serbia's decision.
Deripaska's SMR has offered 370 million dollars for Bor and pledged 414 million dollars in investments.
Last year, Serbia cancelled a 400-million-dollar sale to the Romanian company Cuprom because it failed to pay the required bank guarantees in time.