POLITICAL expediency has dictated a halt to the privatisation of ZSSK Cargo (RG 3.06 p112). A political crisis in Slovakia has led to elections being called on June 17, and the outgoing government has deemed it convenient to halt all sell-off plans in the face of widespread opposition.

Six bidders had been shortlisted for the national rail freight business, but only three bids were submitted by the deadline at the end of January. They came from Cargo Central Europe, Cargo Co-operation Consortium and Rail Cargo Austria.

A selection committee had recommended to Transport Minister Pavol Prokopovic that Rail Cargo Austria, which was bidding in a joint venture with J&T Finance Group, should be awarded the deal. The sale had been expected to generate KS15bn for state coffers, but the government now looks certain to face claims for compensation for bidding costs. Prokopovic is reported to have said that the move would have 'a very, very negative effective on ZSSK Cargo'.