EXCLUSIVE-Poland to push for more dividends in revised budget-document
WARSAW, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Poland has increased by 20 percent the amount it expects to collect this year in dividends from state-controlled firms, documents seen by Reuters showed, the latest step by the government to fill a gap in its budget at the expense of blue-chip companies.
Some investors accuse the government of a heavy-handed approach to dividends that deprives firms of funds for investment, but they say it is only part of a wider pattern of the government asserting more control over state companies.
Confronted by slowing economies, other countries in ex-Communist eastern Europe have also shifted more of the burden for funding the state onto businesses. The trend in Poland is especially striking because it has a reputation as a model for liberal, pro-market policies.
Poland is revising its 2013 budget to reflect the fact that revenue is lower than expected because of the economic slowdown, and the government on Tuesday approved the draft revision.
The revised budget has not been made public, but Reuters has seen a copy which showed the finance ministry wants to collect 6.9 billion zlotys ($2.2 billion) in dividend income, around 1 billion more than in the original 2013 budget.
"I worry about the increasingly aggressive government that once was proud of its liberal approach to the market," said one fund manager at one of Poland's top pension funds, speaking in general about government policy towards state companies, not only on the dividends.
The most likely way for the government to get the increased dividend revenue is for it to push companies in which the state has a controlling stake - such as insurer PZU, lender PKO or copper miner KGHM - to pay out special dividends, on top of the payouts already approved at their annual general meetings.
(Additional reporting by Adrian Krajewski and Marcin Goettig; Editing by Christian Lowe and Louise Heavens)