Polish Shipyards Sale Faces Setback

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- A Qatar-based investor that had agreed to buy two struggling shipyards in Poland failed to meet a midnight deadline for payment, throwing the future of the yards into uncertainty, the Polish government said Tuesday.

The shipyards in Szczecin and Gdynia, on Poland's Baltic coast, face bankruptcy. They -- along with a shipyard in Gdansk -- have been kept afloat by government subsidies in order to save jobs and because of their historic role as the cradle of the pro-democracy struggle during communist rule.

However, the European Union's pro-market rules have forced Poland -- an EU member since 2004 -- to stop these subsidies, and plans by QInvest, a Qatari fund, to buy two shipyards seemed to offer them a future.

But Poland's Treasury Ministry said the payment of 381 million zlotys ($130 million) was not made by midnight Monday, the deadline.

QInvest spokeswoman Susie Pagan said the Qatari investment bank had no comment on the sale, and does not comment on client transactions. QInvest has said it was only acting as an adviser for unidentified clients, and was not the buyer itself.

QInvest describes itself as energy-rich Qatar's largest investment bank. Its chairman is a member of the sheikdom's ruling family.

The problems could cost Treasury Minister Aleksander Grad his job. Prime Minister Donald Tusk has warned that he would fire Grad if he failed to sell off the two shipyards by the end of August.

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