PRISTINA (Serbia and Montenegro), November 18 (SeeNews) - The Kosovo Trust Agency (KTA), charged with the sale of hundreds of state-owned companies in the U.N.-run Serbian province, signed on Friday the final contract for the sale of the ferro-nickel plant Ferronikeli to UK-based Alferon, KTA official said.
"The share sale and purchase agreement (SPA) has been signed on Friday," KTA's spokeswoman Erdelina Dula told SeeNews.
"The contracts is an "umbrella" document, with a number of attached documents," KTA said in a statement, adding that Alferon would have sixty days to obtain the necessary licences and supply contracts for the future operation of the ferro-nickel mines.
Alferon, which expects to begin production within four to six months, paid 33 million euro ($38.76 million) for the plant. The company is to invest at least 20 million euro in the first three years and to employ 1,000 at the end of the first year.
The sale of Ferronikeli was one of the most tangled privatisations in the province.
KTA revised in July its choice of buyer and picked the second-highest bid made by Alferon. The highest bidder - the Albanian-based firm Adi Nikel, which offered 49.447 million euro, was disqualified because it "was not a valid consortium anymore," KTA spokeswoman Renate Schmidt said in July.
Ferronikeli workers have protested the sale since early July, alleging the decision to pursue Alferon was politically motivated.
Ferronikeli ore mining and metallurgical complex was set up in 1984 to produce ferro-nickel for exports. It produced and exported 6,800 tonnes a year of nickel, in ferro-nickel ingots, before the 1990s but since 1998 it has been idle.
Ferronikeli has three open pit mines: the Dushkaja mine with estimated reserves of 6.2 million tones; the Suka mine - 0.8 million tonnes and the Gllavica with 6.8 million tones.
All the mines in the complex were covered early this year with exploration and exploitation licence by the Ministry of Energy and Mining of Kosovo.
Kosovo has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999 when NATO bombings drove Serbian forces out of the province to halt Serb repression of the ethnic Albanian majority there.