Poldi’s famous steelworks on the outskirts of Prague has been auctioned off to a foreign buyer. The move has sparked hopes amid continuing uncertainty what its future could be.
The auction hammer has come down on a significant part of the Poldi Steelworks, an iconic part of the Czech industrial landscape and for around 100 years a byword for quality and innovation in the sector.
The winning offer came in at 261 million crowns after two bidders slugged it out for around half an hour with cautious half million crown increases on the original minimum reserve price of 160 million crowns. The package of property and assets up for grabs was estimated to be worth 180 million crowns.
The top bid came in from Stanislav Kraslavski, who according to details submitted to the auctioneers is a French citizen living in the Lugano region of Switzerland.
The steelworks at Kladno, just outside Prague, has been in insolvency since the end of last year with wages unpaid to the around 150 workers. Steel production had temporarily restarted at the beginning of the year but was quickly stalled when the previous owners were submerged in debts and a reorganisation plan and search for a new investor failed to emerge.
Kraslavski’s firm, Compagnie del Mediterraneo Steel sro, was only registered in the Czech Republic in recent months. He appears in the Swiss company register as part of a Swiss firm with a similar name which specializes in trading in steel, ores, coke, new and used cars, machinery, as well as involvement in construction and real estate transactions.
Kraslavski, according to his Facebook page was born in Ukraine, and required an interpreter for the Prague auction. He reluctantly gave some details about his plans in French when asked about his steel production background:
ʺLook, it is not just about steel producers in the world. There is the willingness and possibility to work and there is the market. It’s the market which allows you to become a producer. The phrase producer of steel is a much ado about nothing. We are counting on producing steel and making a profits. That’s why we’re here. We believe in this project otherwise it would be madness. The other bidder was just bluffing.ʺ
Through his interpreter, Kraslavski said that he hoped to restart production at Poldi as soon as possible. But he also cautioned that everyone is ‘a slave of the market’ and was unwilling to specify when the former workforce might be rehired or added to.
News of the auction purchase appear to have created mixed emotions with some hoping for a rebirth of the famous plant but others doubtful whether it has a future.
Poldi steel was historically a byword for quality and innovation. It was used to produce cars that set world speed records in the 1930s. Steel from the Czech plant was used to make Sydney Harbour’s famous bridge. And special non-corroding steel was created to make surgical instruments and for replacement hip joints and other body parts. At one time the plant, founded in 1889, and its many subsidiaries employed around 20,000. The steelworks and nearby coal mines also made the town a hotbed of industrial unrest and working class organisation on the outskirts of Prague.