PRISTINA (AP)--Officials in Kosovo put 15 companies up for sale Tuesday, the fifth batch of firms to be privatized in the economically depressed province, a statement said.
The businesses include a former producer of plastic moldings, a pharmaceutical wholesale trading company, an old rubber products factory, an electrical mill, a brick factory, warehouses, a clothing producer and a mineral water bottling plant.
Most of the companies will be sold to the highest bidder, while two will go to buyers that have submitted investment plans and negotiated workers' conditions with the Kosovo Trust Agency, a U.N.-run office charged with selling hundreds of enterprises.
The agency advertised the 15 companies for sale on its Web site, saying bids would be accepted from mid-July.
The U.N. mission that is running Kosovo recently set new rules for the privatization process, pledging a faster sell-off of the province's companies.
Previously, the agency was going through the lengthy process of determining the owner and status of each socially owned enterprise - a term used for firms owned by workers and managers under the system set up during communist-era Yugoslavia.
With the new rules, the agency can determine previous ownership after a sale of assets. The proceeds for the sale of the companies go to an escrow account.
Privatization is among the most sensitive issues in Kosovo and is complex in part because it is unclear whether Kosovo will become independent or remain part of Serbia-Montenegro. Serbia's authorities have fiercely opposed the privatizations.
Nevertheless, officials in Kosovo are anxious to sell assets and companies to boost productivity and open investment opportunities in impoverished Kosovo. Many of the province's companies are inefficient and dilapidated after years of neglect.
Kosovo Trust Agency Web site: http://www.kta-kosovo.org [ 10-05-05 1504GMT ]