ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION COMPANIES TO BE SOLD AROUND EASTER
Who will win the competition for privatisation of the Bulgarian electricity distribution companies will be known in the end of next April. Considering the preliminary schedule, the initial evaluation of the applicants should be concluded by Christmas. A separate commission of representatives of the Privatisation Agency (PA), the Ministry of Economy, and the Ministry of Energy, will be formed for each of the three pools in which the seven electricitty distributors are divided. Those who pass the first test will get a certificate allowing them to participate in the next stage. By end-January, they will have to present a plan for integrated management of the companies, a business plan, and an uncommitting financial offer. From February 1, 2004, the preferred candidates will be able to make preliminary assessments of the condition of the companies for sale. The final offers for acquisition of 67% of the capital of electricity distribution companies will be evaluated by one single criteria - the price of the offer.The fixed deadlines may be prolonged, however, if the State Committee for Energy Regulation delays the preparation of electricity prices and licencing regulations. According to the new energy law adopted by the Parliament on November 26, the regulations should be ready within six months after the law becomes effective. Still, the Ministry of Energy insists on having them prepared earlier. This will provide a clear and transparent regulative framework for foreign investors.At least in a short period of time after the signing of the deal, the state will keep its 33% stakes in the electricity distributors. The rest of the state-owned stakes will not be launched on the stock exchange until the privatized companies improve their performance.