15 May 2009

Poland finds buyer for shipyard

7:51 am on 15 May 2009

Poland has found a buyer for the Gdynia shipyard. The yard is one of three facing a breakup under European Union rules against state aid.

Treasury minister Alexander Grad named the successful bidder after an auction on Thursday as United International Trust. Details of the deal will be announced in the next two weeks.

Gdynia, along with Szczecin and Gdansk shipyards, was a stronghold of the Solidarity trade union which helped toppled communism in 1989.

However, the European Commission has ordered the Baltic shipyards to repay more than 2 billion euros ($US2.71 billion) in state aid received over a number of years, raising the possibility of closure and the loss of thousands of jobs.

A decision on the Szczecin shipyard is due on Friday.

Earlier this month, officials said some 35 investors had registered to bid for the assets of Gdynia and Szczecin.

The third shipyard at Gdansk is awaiting a separate European Commission ruling on the state aid it had received.

Polish media have said the yards were likely to be sold piecemeal to non-maritime businesses.

The three yards employ about 15,000 people but as many as 60,000 jobs could be at risk in related businesses. They have not produced a single vessel at a profit since 2004 when Poland joined the European Union.