8 Aug 2022 15:28

Belarus decides to nationalize Miory Steel

MINSK. Aug 8 (Interfax) - Miory Steel, a tinplate producer from Belarus set up seven years ago by private Belarusian investors, is now a state-owned enterprise, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said.

"Miory Steel is now a state enterprise, the state is taking on all the debt the enterprise has accrued. The state has invested a lot of money. We had to buy your debts," the state-owned BelTA news agency quoted Lukashenko as saying during a visit to the plant.

Lukashenko accused the former owners of the plant of theft. "The former owners of the plant stole a lot of money from the enterprise back at the construction stage. Where is that money? This is the biggest question for those who have been remanded in custody," he said.

Lukashenko also demanded that bankruptcy proceedings at the plant be terminated and a director appointed. "We are convinced that all this is necessary. And what we have begun to do is extremely necessary. This is import substitution, and we can consume at least 35,000 tonnes inside Belarus," he said.

The authorities have given plant the objective of achieving full capacity to produce 150,000 tonnes of tin plate per year by 2024, Sergei Gunko, head of OJSC Belstvetmet, which procures and processes non-ferrous metal scrap in Belarus, told reporters.

Production should rise to 9,000 tonnes per month or 108,000 tonnes in annual terms from November this year. "The plant was built with the European market in mind, but the tin plate that it produces has been added to the list of sanctioned goods and it has had to redirect supplies to the Russian market and Kazakhstan," Gunko said.

He said the plant planned to supply 100,000-110,000 tonnes of tin plate to Russia per year. The Belarus market is estimated at 30,000-35,000 tonnes, all of which used to be imported.

The Miory plant also plans to export tin plate to African and Central Asian markets.

The Vitebsk Region Economic Court opened bankruptcy proceedings against Miory Steel in May this year following a petition by Belarusbank, which began financing the construction of the enterprise for the production of tinplate in 2015. The court granted a stay on bankruptcy until July 13, 2022 to check whether there are grounds for receivership and appointed an interim manager.

Lukashenko gave the go-ahead to build the Miory plant in 2014. It was commissioned at the end of 2020. The investor was the Austrian-registered MMPZ GmbH, owned by Belarusian entrepreneurs. Some 400 million euros were invested in the plant. The Economic Court said the plant's net losses were 5.8 million Belarus rubles in 2020 and 91.1 million rubles in 2021. The plant's past-due debt to the bank was the equivalent of 717 million rubles.

The plant is capable of producing 150,000 tonnes of tin plant with thickness of 0.1-0.5 mm per year for the food canning industry, production of aerosol cans and packaging for paintwork materials and petrochemical products. The second stage of the plant will increase its capacity to 240,000 tonnes.

The Belarusian government has come up with a package of incentives to get the enterprise discharged from bankruptcy. The Izvestia newspaper said the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry thinks plant might resolve the problem with the supply of tinplate for cans, which has arisen in Russia against the backdrop of Western sanctions.

The plant's executives, including the general director, Pyotr Shimukovich, his deputy for economics and finance, Dmitry Slavnikov, and chairman of the board of directors, Alexei Kovalenko, were arrested in June last year. The reasons for their detention have not been officially reported.