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Poland Steps Up Privatization Drive

Several key energy and chemical sector companies have been added to the privatization list.

Poland expects to earn an extra 2.3 billion euros (US$3.2 billion) from new privatiztions under a revised version of its 2008-2011 divestment plan, the treasury ministry said.

"The state treasury ministry has updated the privatization program which foresees income of 36.7 billion zloty (US$ 12.2 billion)," it said. Originally launched in April 2008, the privatization drive of Poland's liberal government targeted 740 companies from 2008-2011 and was expected to raise 27 billion zlotys.

Several key energy and chemical sector companies have been added to the privatization list.

Energy companies now up for sale include Enea, Tauron, PGE, Energa and ZE PAK while Polish chemicals giant Ciech tops the list of chemical sector firms on the bloc.

The Warsaw Stock Exchange is also on offer as are shares in TP, Poland's main telecoms operator, bank Pekao S.A., the LW Bogdanka coal company, the Ruch media distribution company, and Lotos fuels.

The Treasury also intends to sell between 10-41% of shares in KGHM, Europe's second ranking copper miner.

"The accelerated privatization also means giving privatized firms a better chance to cope with the crisis," it said, adding that control over companies of strategic importance will remain in the hands of the state.

Faced with a growing spending deficit this year as the crisis dampens tax income, Poland's governing Liberals have been pressed to boost revenue via other means, having vowed not to raise taxes this year.

During the year and a half tenure of Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Liberals, some 144 companies have been privatized while 431 privatization projects were underway as of June 30, the Treasury statement said.

Stepping up privatization was a key campaign pledge by Tusk, who led his Civic Platform to victory in snap election in October 2007, but has been facing criticism from some of the most enthusiastic reformers in his camp for allegedly being too slow to implement his manifesto.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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