Havlicek on Liberty: The milk has already been spilled. The government can now only see how the bankruptcy proceedings will evolve iRADIO

The government is recovering a claim it paid in September to state insurer EGAP Liberty Ostrava. Negotiated the installment plan with the government company. “I can only imagine what kind of publicity it would have had if EGAP hadn’t offered a guarantee then – how come it didn’t work with Liberty at the time?” Former industry minister Karel Havlicek (ANO) explains. Radiožurnál Why the state is now one of the creditors of the Ostrava smelter.



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The government makes no guarantees. Warranties are provided by EGAP | Photo: Eva Korinkova | Source: iROZHLAS.cz

In 2020, when you were Minister of Industry and led the government of Andrej Babis (ANO), the government guaranteed Liberty a loan that the company later defaulted on. This year, the state export guarantee and insurance agency EGAP had to pay 1.5 billion instead. In retrospect, isn’t it your government’s fault for giving this guarantee?
Please, you can’t be serious. After all, the government offers no guarantees. Guarantees are provided by EGAP.

Does this mean that you do not agree to EGAP providing a warranty? Did they do it without your consent?
Of course not. We cannot decide who should or should not be financed by EGAP or the Czech Export Bank. You can’t be serious about that, Mr. Editor. That’s what (Industry Minister STAN Jozef) Síkela might think, he’s a politician, but I expected you to rise above that.


The Liberty Ostrava smelters will lose power on Thursday and employees will stay home on full pay until January

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This means, of course, that EGAP or the Czech Export Bank decides this. These are common covid guarantees and there were an incredible number of them. And Liberty is one of them.

Guarantees are set in the government’s sense of the word, but these financial institutions are already setting parameters based on how they assess risk.

So from EGAP’s point of view, was it wrong to give this guarantee?
I can’t say that, the financiers at EGAP have to evaluate it. They had to assess the company’s cash flow and how much it could repay. And it must be said that the company’s sales in 2020 were good.

I can only imagine what it would have been like if EGAP didn’t offer a warranty back then – how come it didn’t work with the Liberty then?


Liberty is confident, plans to return to profitability. But he wants to postpone the loan repayment and renegotiate the contracts

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But more importantly Mr. Editor, how was seven billion crowns taken from the Liberty Corporation?

When I was minister, Liberty had an oversight board that was someone from the Ministry of Industry and Trade. We continued to talk to (owner Sanjeev) Gupta and the trade unionists. Whenever there was a threat of a conflict situation – for example, when emission permits were issued – we dealt with them and such a situation did not arise.

The first thing Minister Sikela did was remove a member of the Supervisory Board from Liberty as an employee of the Ministry of Industry. He left it completely free, and he is surprised that seven billion crowns are now gone. So why did they call those people back? Why don’t they have that information? Why didn’t they do anything about it?

If you were in this situation in government today, how would you react? What should the government do now?
Well, now the milk is spilled. Now it’s complicated because of course it’s a commercial entity and at that point, if they’ve already taken the money, I can imagine it’s going to be very difficult to get it back.

Stuntura: We are considering Liberty’s bankruptcy plan. Additional financial assistance from the state is excluded

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By the way, the energy supplier is in a critical situation, to whom they pay high prices for energy, I had the opportunity to find out from Liberty management, because of course I was a few weeks ago.

They told me that they were charging three to four times the normal price. So I believe this is a very difficult conflict between the former owner and the current owner.

Because the power was put in there by the former owner, I don’t think the Liberty was doing well at the time, but that was a business thing. At this point, in my view, the government can only observe how potential bankruptcy proceedings will evolve.

Tomáš Pancíř, trs

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