17 December 2001 13:39 [Source: ICIS news]
PRAGUE (CNI)--Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman confirmed on Monday that his government has opted to sell the state’s 63% stake in Unipetrol to Czech/Swiss agrochemicals group Agrofert Holding for Koruna11.7bn ($327m/Euro361m) despite receiving a much higher offer from the UK's Rotch Energy.
Zeman said Rotch Energy had submitted an offer of Koruna14.5bn. Rotch was backed in its bid by US company Conoco.
However, he said Agrofert was regarded as a better strategic investor.
At a press conference today Zeman said: "Agrofert was seen as the best bid to make Unipetrol competitive in the region."
Zeman said that Rotch was not regarded as a suitable strategic partner because of its past record in bidding for a refinery in Poland. He said that Rotch had won exclusive negotiating rights with the Polish government for a refinery in Gdansk. The $500m price had been agreed, he said, but then Rotch had negotiated the price down to $300m.
The Czech Prime Minister also said the government was keen to ensure they did not sell to a party which was merely a financial investor. Zeman also criticised Rotch for insisting it would carry out due diligence at Unipetrol only if it was successful in the tender and not before, as the government had requested.
Zeman also revealed that the third bid, from the Austro-Hungarian petrochemicals, oil and gas consortium of MOL, TVK and OMV, was not even opened as he said the group had failed to fulfil the tender conditions. Government spokesman Libor Roucek refused to elaborate on the shortcomings when asked by CNI.
As news leaked ahead of the official announcement, Unipetrol shares fell from Koruna54 to Koruna 48.5.
(Katka Krosnar contributed to this story.)
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