The Slovakian government has begun privatisation of Slovenske Elektrarne (SE), the country’s dominant power generating company, before general elections in September. The privatisation, delayed by negotiations with creditors who are owed $1.2 billion, is part of the government’s plan to attract strategic investors into the energy sector. However opposition parties have threatened to abort the tender process if they win power.

The sale is expected to attract many of the bidders that participated in a failed attempt to privatise the main Czech utility earlier this year. The government’s adviser, PWC, has named Electricité de France, Enel, Iberdrola, British Energy, International Power, RWE and E.On as potential bidders. The sale now needs to be accelerated in order to allow restructuring in preparation for the country’s expected EU entry in 2004.

Potential investors will be offered the choice of a 49 per cent stake in SE’s conventional capacity, in its nuclear capacity, or in both. PWC believes the Czech experience suggests there would be little interest in purchasing the whole company. Another problem has resulted from the selection of EDF, E.On and RWE, all strategic investors in the country’s three power distributors earlier this year. These companies are expected to seek power from sources other than SE, so restructuring is essential if the company is to compete effectively.