Qatar bank comes to rescue of Polish shipyards

Qatar investment bank, QInvest, helps Polish shipyards avert bankruptcy threat.
Qatar bank comes to rescue of Polish shipyards
By Gabriela Baczynska
Thu 02 Jul 2009 11:23 AM

Qatar's largest investment bank, QInvest, has come to the rescue of two Polish shipyards, the Polish government said on Wednesday, averting the threat of bankruptcy amid a dispute with the EU over illegal state aid.The government held tenders in May in its search for an investor to save the Szczecin and Gdynia shipyards, which along with the nearby Gdansk yard were the cradle of the pro-democracy Solidarity trade union which helped topple communism in 1989.

At that time, Treasury Minister Aleksander Grad declared the United International Trust winner of the two auctions but he said on Wednesday the company was just an intermediary.

"The key information is that the investor, the company that will really provide financing for the whole of the transaction is QInvest, which is 25-percent owned by Qatar Islamic Bank ," Grad told a news conference.

Clarifying its involvement in the deal, QInvest later issued a statement from Qatar saying it was acting as an adviser for clients who were in the process of acquiring the Polish assets.

QInvest said it could not name the clients now but that the deal was at the due diligence stage pending completion.

Grad said a new company called Polskie Stocznie would be set up to run the operations of the two shipyards together.

"The Qatar Islamic Bank will also guarantee the transaction. So we have very safe investors who agreed to finance the whole thing and operate via a Polish company into which the assets will be injected," Grad said.

Polish officials said they hoped the Gulf country would invest in other projects in Poland, including privatisations.

Polskie Stocznie, which means Polish Shipyards in Polish, will start employing about 5,000 workers from August and aims to build six to eight gas transporters annually as well as other vessels, a company official said.

No other details of the deal were immediately available.

The European Commission ordered the Polish shipyards to pay back more than two billion euros in state aid which they had received over many years, raising the spectre of closure and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

Under the new deal, the Qatar investors will not have to repay the state aid, Grad said.

Initial reaction from the Solidarity trade union was very cautious, reflecting their fears that the sale of the yards could still lead to job cuts and possibly the eventual end of shipbuilding on Poland's Baltic coast.

The three shipyards have not produced a single ship at a profit since 2004, when Poland joined the EU.

The Gdansk shipyard, where electrician Lech Walesa first established the Solidarity union in 1980, was sold in 2007 to Ukraine's Donbass group. The European Commission has said it will approve a government restructuring programme for Gdansk. (Reuters)

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