At least one third of Constanta Port shares should be sold on stock exchange


According to the head of Gov’t, private investors’ interest cannot be drawn by selling merely 5 pc of shares.

PNL’s departure from the governing alliance has brought the issue of passing the Constanta Port to the authority of Constanta Municipality back on the table and mayor Radu Mazare has expressed great optimism in this respect.
On Monday, Prime Minister Victor Ponta explained that selling only 5 percent of the Constanta Port shares on the stock exchange is not enough and he stressed that at least one third of the shares should be sold in order to draw the private investors’ interest. “If you were a foreign investor, why would you want 5 percent of something…? We haven’t taken the matter seriously. Either we sell at least one third and draw the private investors’ interest or we don’t sell at all,” Ponta stated at a press conference at the Ministry of Regional Development headquarters, and continued by saying “the solution adopted by all the other major European ports like Rotterdam and Hamburg was to involve the private sector, primarily through private capital, the Ministry of Transport, and local authorities. Do we want to further growth or be small-town demagogues?”
Ponta points to Antonescu – he supports shares transfer
The project aimed at partially transferring the Constanta Port shares to local authorities so as to ensure growth was strongly supported by PNL leader Crin Antonescu in his electoral campaign and it is the solution adopted by all major European ports, Prime Minister and PSD leader Victor Ponta stated yesterday, as cited by Mediafax.
“During the campaign, I remember going to Constanta with Antonescu; he was a more vocal supporter of the Constanta Port… now, memories are beginning to fade one week later,” Ponta said. He explained further that the solution adopted by all the other major European ports was to draw private capital through the ministry and local authorities and transfer at least one third of the shares to the local administration. This statement was made in response to a question posed by reporters, asking him to comment on PNL President Crin Antonescu’s statement last week in Constanta, according to which the Constanta Port and the shares transfer to the municipality was blocked by PNL because it was not part of the governing agenda, but PNL’s departure “will make things easier.”
Members of the Liberal party from Constanta, whose collaboration at a local level with PSD has been smooth so far, have raised several concerns of their own. They believe such an initiative would be like opening Pandora’s Box. MP Puiu Hasotti is of the opinion this would allow other local authorities to request shares at major industrial units in their county, such as the Nuclear Electrical Power Plant (CNE) in Cernavoda or the Daewoo Mangalia shipyard, where the state still owns 49 percent of shares, according to romanialibera.ro.
In turn, MEP and PDL MP Sebastian Bodu claims that if Radu Mazare got his hands on Constanta Port, he would ruin the port community by acting in the interest of his own companies, thus impeding Romania’s development, adevarul.ro notes. On Sunday, March 9, the MEP sent PM Victor Ponta an open letter asking him not to transfer Constanta Port to the town hall.
Moreover, sud-est-forum notes that Teodor Baconschi, vice-chairman of the People’s Movement Party (PMP), said: “The port is the equivalent of war spoils in the conflict between PSD tycoons and Prime Minister Victor Ponta, and if the latter succumbs to pressure, he is merely the tycoons’ puppet.”
On March 1, Radu Mazare characterized USL’s break-up and PNL’s departure from the Ministry of Transport as beneficial to the town of Constanta. “It’s a good thing the Liberals are gone; I hope we can finally take those shares so I can achieve my objectives for the town. I want to use the money from Port shares to lower the citizens’ utility bills,” Mazare pointed out in reference to attaining the majority Constanta Port shares package through a transfer previously blocked by PNL. Last week, Mazare announced he had discussed this matter both with Victor Ponta and Minister Dan Sova, both of whom promised him help. In the electoral campaign, the Social Democrats promised they would grant the Local Council 33 percent of the Constanta Port shares.
The takeover will block all European projects and investments
Business magnate Gabriel Comanescu, the wealthiest businessman in Constanta, whose activity in the oil sector is tied directly to the Constanta Port, launched his first attack on the issue by publicly rejecting the possibility of transferring the port over to the Constanta Town Hall.
“Transferring the port over to the Constanta Town Hall is an absurdity perpetuated time and again. The town hall needs to stay put. Proprietatea Fund can very well sell its shares and the ‘Port Operator’ can set up that investment fund and purchase the management package, and thus preserve the balance between town hall and the state,” Comanescu stated, according to evz.ro. In the upcoming days, the Port Employers’ Association will present a joint plan to save the Port of Constanta, he said further. Comanescu concluded by pointing out that if Constanta Town Hall takes over the Port, it “will block all European projects, which would bring major investments. Port infrastructure needs funds, a lot of funds, and it would be a shame if it did not receive them.”

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