Bad news for TMR: the Polish public forest-administration company wants Tatras’ cableways

Just before Christmas, a new intriguing plot unfolded in the privatization story of Polskie koleje linowe (PKL – Polish Funiculars and Cableways), a very sensitive subject for the Poles: another state-controlled company – Lasy Państwowe (Public Forest Administration) – declared itself interested in acquiring the Tatras’ funiculars, cableways, and ski lifts that our northern neighbours and their politicians view as their national treasury. This suits well the numerous opponents of their privatization into the hands of the Slovak Tatry Mountain Resorts (TMR) that has been seeking to gain control of the Polish Tatras’ slopes for a long time.

For TMR, the no. 1 tour operator in the Slovak part of Tatras, acquiring PKL is a crucial strategic goal, towards which it has been working hard over the past few years. Incidentally, its October entry to the Warsaw Stock Exchange was guided by an only purpose: to stop Polish people envisioning TMR as a bunch of outlandish Slovak intruders. TMR did more than that: it involved four local municipalities into its PKL-privatization project. However, the most important town on the mountain range’s northern side – Zakopane – has rejected the joint project, and its political leaders are among those who warmly welcomed the public forest company’s initiative.

The acquisition of PKL by the Forest Administration is also supported by the Polish Tatras National Park’s management. Not surprising, as the Park reports to the same entity as the Forest Administration – to the Ministry of Environment. And a concern about preserving the Tatras’ nature is, along with patriotism, a strong argument for TMR detractors. Its ties with politicians and with the National Park make the Forest Administration a big favourite.

The sale of PKL, part of the national railway company PKP, has been dragging on and on for two years, being repeatedly postponed, until the Poles finally made their mind in December. Besides TMR and the Forest Administration, the tenderers include Polish businessman Adam Bachleda-Curuś, and an alliance of municipalities called Polskie koleje górskie.

Even though PKL’s book value is PLN 40.2m (around CZK 250m), the candidates are expected to come forward with considerably more generous bids. Their tenders are to be submitted by 24 January 2013, and the new owner should be known by the end of June. PKL has been offered for sale as a whole, but the Polish railway company does not rule out the possibility of keeping a minority interest nevertheless.

Translated by Lingvus

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