May 30, 2012 / 4:07 PM / 5 years ago

Poland squeezes cash out of state firms

(Combines stories on dividends, adds PGE chief executive)

Warsaw, May 30 (Reuters) - Poland pushed through higher dividends on Wednesday at two of its largest listed companies - utility PGE and insurer PZU - and may squeeze additional cash from copper miner KGHM among others to bolster the state budget.

The country is seeking to get its budget deficit below the EU-mandated level of 3 percent of gross domestic product this year, and aims to raise 8 billion zlotys ($2.3 billion) from dividends.

However, recent moves indicate it may be shooting for more.

At the PGE annual meeting, the state muscled through a dividend of 3.42 billion zlotys, or nearly 40 percent more than the company planned. At PZU, it won a dividend of 1.9 billion zlotys, or a tenth more than it proposed.

PGE Chief Executive Krzysztof Kilian said the higher dividend meant it could no longer pursue a 7.5-billion zlotys takeover of smaller state-owned peer Energa.

A court backed a decision by the competition watchdog to block the long unconsummated deal, but PGE can still appeal.

“With this move, the (treasury) ministry decided for us what we should do,” Kilian said, calling the transaction “undoable” after PGE hands back 75 percent of last year’s earnings to shareholders.

A newspaper reported on Wednesday the treasury ministry, which oversees state assets, wants copper miner KGHM to hand over 4.8 billion zlotys to shareholders from its record net profit of 11.3 billion.

The company, which benefited last year from strong metal prices and the sale of its telecoms assets, is seeking to hand 3.4 billion zlotys to investors.

“At such stormy times, it’s good to have open sources of financing,” said Grzegorz Ogonek, economist at ING Bank Slaski. ($1 = 3.4686 Polish zlotys) (Reporting by Anieszka Barteczko, Pawel Florkiewicz, Dagmara Leszkowicz and Chris Borowski; Editing by David Hulmes)

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