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LIBERTY Ostrava's Financial Quandary: A Tale of Rising Debts and Market Turbulence

LIBERTY Ostrava's Financial Quandary: A Tale of Rising Debts and Market Turbulence
foto: Liberty Ostrava / Public domain/LIBERTY Ostrava's Financial Quandary: A Tale of Rising Debts and Market Turbulence
30 / 10 / 2023

In an unfolding financial drama, LIBERTY Ostrava, a steel plant in the Czech Republic, confronts mounting challenges, from faltering markets to questionable managerial moves.

A notable chapter in this saga revolves around a failed loan transaction with Greensill Bank amid the COVID-19 turbulence. Initially, the state insurance entity, EGAP, stepped in with a guarantee for the loan, which amounted to a significant one-and-a-half billion Czech crowns. However, this financial lifeline, intended to bolster the smelter's operational financing, now teeters in the balance. Disconcertingly, there's talk of the state possibly retracting its guarantee, raising the specter of more woes for the embattled steel magnate.

Another significant challenge facing the company is the state of the steel market. The sector has seen a sharp decline in year-on-year steel product prices. With construction and engineering demands descending and relentless competition from affordable imports, the Ostrava smelter's ability to repay the EGAP loan from its funds is now under question. Nevertheless, Liberty's spokesperson has announced an agreement in principle, suggesting that the debt will be repaid in regular installments.

However, union leaders paint a bleaker picture, invoking terms like "liquidation" to describe the smelter's trajectory. They've requested more transparency from the owner, Sanjeev Gupta of the GFG Alliance, about the company's plans, especially concerning the repayment of debts to suppliers and the state.

Recent developments at the Ostrava smelter compound these anxieties. The complex's last operational furnace was powered down on October 23, 2023. Touted as a 14-day hiatus for upgrades, eyebrows are raised, given a similar "temporary" halt a year prior that's yet to see a restart. With the smelter's central role as a regional employer, a potential bankruptcy could have devastating effects on the local workforce.

Yet, amidst the financial maelstrom, Liberty Steel remains audacious in its vision. They aim to transform the Ostrava establishment into a carbon-neutral producer. Central to this ambition is the replacement of four antiquated 1970s tandem furnaces with two cutting-edge hybrid electric ones. But as the financial storm rages, whether this vision materializes remains to be seen.