Source AP ©

Czech prime minister to invest in Bulgaria's energy sector

The Czech prime minister is interested in investing capital in Bulgaria's energy sector.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek was in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, for a meeting with Bulgarian counterpart Sergei Stanishev on Thursday, just weeks before Bulgaria plans to chose a strategic investor to build and operate a second nuclear plant in the country.

Czech power utility CEZ AS is one of six shortlisted companies potentially seeking a stake in the plant at Belene, where construction of a 1,000-megawatt unit is due to begin in 2008 and be completed by January 2014. A second 1,000-megawatt unit is due to become operational the following year.

Topolanek said Bulgaria's energy offered "great potential for business" with opportunities including the "joint construction of the Belene nuclear plant."

Belene would compensate for the closure of two aging units at Kozlodui, as part of the Balkan country's requirements to join the European Union in January.

Other shortlisted companies are Electricite de France SA, Electrabel SA from Belgium, Enel SpA from Italy and E.ON AG and RWE AG from Germany.

Bulgaria's state-owned electricity company, NEK, is offering up to a 49 percent stake in the Belene Power Company, which will be set up to own and operate the facility.

CEZ has already entered Bulgaria's energy market by acquiring two-thirds of the grid operator for the western part of the country, as well as a thermal power plant in Varna, the country's third largest city.

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