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Kanin Ski Resort Auction Fails (adds)

Bovec/Ljubljana, 18 July (STA) - An auction for the bankruptcy estate of ski centre operator ATC Kanin ended unsuccessfully on Friday as the only bidder, Russia's Ilev Inženiring, found the lowest price that could still be offered by receiver Nataša Gibičar, EUR 1.14m, too high. Gibičar explained she needs a new court order to lower the price further.

Ilev Inženiring, owned by Evgeny Kharitonov and Ilya Chibirkov, said it was a serious bidder for the infrastructure on Slovenia's highest ski slopes, but that the price had to be realistic.

While it is estimated that around EUR 10m would be needed to renovate the ski centre in order to make it fully operational, Ilev Inženiring said that merely replacing the ski lifts would already involve major costs.

The company's representative, lawyer Carmen Dobnik, said they had warned the receiver that the last winter, when the slopes were not operational, took their toll and "what was already in a bad condition before, got even worse".

"But we are definitely continuing and believe that we will be able to resolve the matter by the end of the year," she announced.

The Russian bidder signed a lease for the real estate surrounding the Kanin ski slopes earlier this month as a condition for participating in the auction.

The ATC Kanin assets are being sold as a whole in a Dutch auction, where the initial price is lowered gradually until a buyer comes forward.

The opening price on Friday was EUR 1.98m and there was initially talk of another potential bidder.

While noting that the final price had been lower than the estimated liquidation value of EUR 1.2m, receiver Gibičar expressed her hope that "there will be more bidders at the next auction, when the starting price is a bit lower".

The municipality of Bovec, which owns the Kanin slopes, is hoping that serious investors will turn up, since the ski centre needs to be refurbished and upgraded.

Mayor Siniša Germovšek was not surprised by today's outcome, agreeing that a lot will have to be invested in the centre, which is why he believes the value "is closer to zero than to millions".

Germovšek remains confident that the Russian investors are serious about the deal, saying their approach was "professional, exact, leaving nothing to coincidence".

The ATC Kanin ski centre has never been fully completed and has been in financial trouble ever since it was opened 40 years ago.

It took a big hit in the 2012/2013 season when two empty cable cars plunged to the ground in an accident that was blamed on gusts of wind. The centre has not been operational since.

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