SMEDEREVO - Blast furnace No. 2 at the Smederevo-based steel plant Železara was ignited on Monday, restoring the production after two months.
The first tons of liquid iron will be transported to the steel mill in the next two to three days, while other sections of the plant will be put into operation successively.
The lighting of one of the two blast furnaces in Železara, which employs around 5,000 people, was planned for late June, but was postponed for technical reasons. One blast furnace has been out of operation for years due to lack of raw materials, while the other was held in reserve since early May this year.
The government of Serbia, Železara's owner since February 2012 when it was bought back from U.S. Steel for USD 1, formed an operating group in May 2014 tasked with establishing contact with investors interested in the Smederevo steel plant.
The negotiations on Železara privatization are currently underway with seven or eight serious investors, and the bidding procedure will be launched after the talks with prospective buyers and the decision of the Serbian government, Tanjug learnt at the Ministry of Economy.
Economy Minister Dušan Vujovic told B92 last week that a call for bids for Železara Smederevo will be announced in the next two months, without specifying more details.
"We'll pay them"
Negotiations on the sale of Železara Smederevo are currently underway with five serious companies and we will pay anyone who is able to return the foundry to normal operation, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday after a meeting with members of the Privrednik Ccub, which was also attended by Economy Minister Dušan Vujovic.
Describing the media reports on this matter as "embarrassing," Vucic stressed: "Not only will we not get a single dollar for it, but we will pay a large amount to anyone who wants to take it."
The company generates losses of around EUR 102 million to the state every year, he explained.
"Železara does not exist, it only creates losses. We are praying to god to pay anyone if needed and whatever the sum, even a year's or two years' loss, just to have it out of our hands and not have that loss in the future," Vucic stated.
He said that meetings with business people were his obligation, adding that different topics and solutions offered by the government had been on the agenda on Friday.
"We touched on agriculture, crop farming, animal husbandry and the problems with the pig plague. The situation is difficult, but things will improve. We will start moving forward," he noted.
Commenting on whether he had spoken with the business community about the new labour law, he said that most of the community wanted the law adopted and that the topic had not been given too much attention at the meeting.