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Serbia plans to sell oil monopoly, JAT this year

Serbia will put its NIS oil monopoly and JAT airline up for sale this year, and in the meantime will complete the sale of the country’s second-biggest insurer, Economy Minister Mladjan Dinkic said yesterday.

Naftna Industrija Srbije (NIS) and JAT are the only monopolies the ruling coalition has agreed to sell, he said, and the government expected to complete their sale in 2008. “A consensus has been reached among coalition party leaders to sell NIS and JAT,” Dinkic told a news conference.

“The government will first draft a law on NIS, defining its privatization. The law will be adopted in September or October and then we will launch a tender for NIS in October,” he said. “We plan to sell a 25 percent stake in NIS in the first stage, followed by a capital increase, as advised by Merrill Lynch.” Merrill Lynch and Raiffeisen Investment, who are advising the government on the sale, have proposed a phased privatization initially putting 25 percent on sale.

The capital increase should give the buyer an additional 12.5 percent stake. A list of potential bidders for NIS includes Russia’s Gazprom Neft and Lukoil, Hungary’s MOL, Austria’s OMV, Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum, Romania’s Rompetrol and Poland’s PKN Orlen.

On flag-carrier JAT, Dinkic said a search for a strategic partner has already begun. “JAT will be privatized only through a tender and the best bidder will win,” Dinkic said, adding Serbia would soon call a tender for a privatization adviser. Local media said Russia’s Aeroflot has so far made the best offer for JAT. This week, Air India said it was considering a strategic alliance with JAT and was conducting due diligence on the company. (