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ÖIAG to be Enlarged?

Published: September 21, 2012; 00:46 · (Vindobona)

Publicly held companies like Verbund or Austrian Railways should be integrated into the Austrian industrial holding group.

ÖIAG to be Enlarged? / Picture: © Österreichische Industrieholding AG (ÖIAG)

For months, a debate on ÖIAG´s future is going on. The Austrian governing parties SPÖ and ÖVP did not agree on a common strategy yet. Both parties still have a fundamentally different strategy for ÖIAG.

SPÖ wants to dissolve ÖIAG and to put the three remaining interests to the Ministry of Finance. By contrast, ÖVP promotes to shift the publicly held stakes in ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways), Asfinag (Austrian Highway Financing Company) and the energy group Verbund into ÖIAG. In the past, ÖVP promoted further privatization steps. In the past, only Minister of Economics Reinhold Mitterlehner (ÖVP) said that the stake in Verbund should be kept by his Ministry. At the moment, ÖIAG only manages the stakes in OMV (31.5%), Post (51%) and Telekom Austria (28.4%).

A new “future concept” presented by ÖIAG´s management is similar to the ideas of ÖVP. Not only ÖBB (Austrian Railways) and Asfinag should be put into ÖIAG, but also the majority shareholding in Verbund and Bundesforste should be managed by ÖIAG.

The „future concept“ defines four „key industries“. The first group “mobility” consists of ÖBB, Asfinag and the Vienna International Airport. However, the airport is partly held by the provinces of Lower Austria and Vienna. The second group “energy” contains the stakes in Verbund and OMV. Post and Telekom Austria are forming the third group “communication”. In the group “real estate”, the assets of BIG and Bundesforste should be managed by ÖIAG. The precondition for this concept would be a unified shareholding management. Asfinag and ÖBB are held by the Ministry of Infrastructure. Verbund and BIG are managed by the Ministry of Economics. The Ministry of Agriculture holds the assets of Bundesforste.

The publication was commissioned by the Austrian Minister of Finance, Maria Fekter (ÖVP). It is expected that the coalition partner SPÖ will offer fierce resistance against these plans, however.

For ÖBB´s supervisory board president Horst Pöchhaker, ÖIAG is a crucial issue for the Austrian business location. Pöchhacker opposes to the plan of enlarging ÖIAG by the energy company Verbund, ÖBB and the highway funding company Asfinag. „Why should we leave the successful way and cede ÖBB to a private supervisory board?“ Pöchhacker refers to the surprisingly successful restructuring of ÖBB.

Pöchhacker: „It is not acceptable that a private institution decides on publicly held company and the Austria state has to bear the risks.“ The former CEO of the construction company Porr underlines that the ÖIAG act must be amended before the state holding may be enlarged. „It is about strategic questions, which are essential for the Austrian business location. The politics has to show responsibility.“