* Industry minister: state may delay nuclear power expansion
* Minister: buying out CEZ minorities least preferred option (Adds quotes)
PRAGUE, Oct 29 (Reuters) - The Czech government may delay its decision on building new reactors at state-controlled utility CEZ’s two nuclear power plants, Industry Minister Marta Novakova was quoted as saying on Monday.
“The decision about building nuclear units can’t be done under pressure and we don’t want to be put under pressure from suppliers or other entities,” Novakova said in an interview published by Bloomberg.
“The finance ministry is also analysing the risk of potential court disputes,” she added.
The project to expand CEZ’s nuclear power plant fleet is the biggest ever Czech energy investment. CEZ operates two plants at Dukovany and Temelin that together covered 38 percent of Czech energy needs last year.
Earlier in October, Novakova told Reuters that the government aimed to pick the best financing model for the multi-billion dollar construction by the end of this year. She also said that any model must respect the utility’s minority shareholders.
Some minority shareholders are afraid that such an expensive project might dent dividend payouts if CEZ were pushed to finance it on its own.
“Buying out minority shareholders in CEZ is the most expensive option, and, based on the debates we’re having, I would say the least preferred,” Novakova said in Monday’s interview.
A CEZ shareholder group is demanding more minority shareholder representation on the company’s supervisory board and has called for a general meeting to vote on overhauling management’s stock option plan.
“We realise there is a real risk of personal legal liability not just for CEZ management but also for the prime minister, myself, and the finance minister,” Novakova said in the interview.
CEZ scrapped its previous nuclear tender in 2014 after failing to receive the state guarantees it had sought in order to minimise risks.
In the Bloomberg interview, Novakova reiterated that the state would prefer to provide as few guarantees as possible, if any, for the project, which is expected to cost billions of dollars.
“It’s obvious that the government wants to minimise the guarantees it will provide, and would rather push CEZ to at least participate in the financing of the project,” she said. (Reporting by Robert Muller, Editing by Michael Kahn and Kirsten Donovan)