NLB privatisation deferred
Ljubljana, 5 December - Slovenia was supposed to privatise NLB, the country's largest bank, by the end of 2017 under covenants made in 2013 when the bank received state aid. Alas, the process was deferred, after what was a year of constant and at times tense negotiations between Ljubljana and Brussels that involved a called off initial public offering in June and after multiple government proposals on how to circumvent the obligations were rejected by the EU. Towards the end of the year, the two sides appeared close to a compromise that would see the covenants preserved but privatisation deferred at least to 2018, when it will likely be picked up by a new government. While the process reinforced the belief on the right that the bank is a cash cow for leftist political structures, it marks a continuation of the decades-long apprehension in Slovenia about privatisation. The government's main argument has been that the price is not right, but critics have retorted that this had to do with the bank's governance and Slovenia's insistence to preserve a controlling stake post-privatisation. The disputes over privatisation appear not to have hurt the bank, which saw net profit double in January-September to EUR 184m.