Qatar bank buys Polish shipyards
Warsaw, July 1, 2009
The Polish government named on Wednesday QInvest, Qatar's largest investment bank, as the buyer of two state-owned shipyards which had faced bankruptcy.
The government held tenders in May in its search for an investor to save the Szczecin and Gdynia shipyards.
At that time, Treasury Minister Aleksander Grad declared the United International Trust winner of the two auctions but he said on Wednesday the company was just an intermediary.
'The key information is that the investor, the company that will really provide financing for the whole of the transaction is QInvest, which is 25-percent owned by Qatar Islamic Bank,' Grad told a news conference.
A new company called Polskie Stocznie will now be set up to run the operations of the two shipyards together, Grad said.
'The Qatar Islamic Bank will also guarantee the transaction. So we have very safe investors who agreed to finance the whole thing and operate via a Polish company into which the assets will be injected,' Grad said.
Officials said they hoped the Gulf country would invest in other projects in Poland including some privatisation offers.
Polskie Stocznie, which means Polish Shipyards in Polish, will start employing about 5,000 workers from August and aims to build six to eight gas transporters annually as well as other vessels, a company official said.
No other details of the deal were immediately available.
The European Commission ordered the Polish shipyards to pay back more than two billion euros in state aid which they had received over many years, raising the spectre of closure and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.
Under the new deal, the Qatar investors will not have to repay the state aid, Grad said.
Initial reaction from the Solidarity trade union was very cautious, reflecting their fears that the sale of the yards could still lead to job cuts and possibly the eventual end of shipbuilding on Poland's Baltic coast.
The three shipyards have not produced a single ship at a profit since 2004, when Poland joined the EU.
The Gdansk shipyard, where electrician Lech Walesa first established the Solidarity union in 1980, was sold in 2007 to Ukraine's Donbass group. The European Commission has said it will approve a government restructuring programme for Gdansk. - Reuters
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