Greece seeks to avert nickel producer Larco shutdown

ATHENS, Dec 12 (Reuters) – Greece is trying to avert the possible closure of Europe's biggest nickel producer Larco and is looking at ways to ensure there are no interruptions to its electricity supply, the country's energy ministry said on Wednesday.

Larco, which is 55 percent owned by the Greek state, owes about 280 million euros in unpaid electricity bills to state-controlled power utility Public Power Corp. (PPC), also a minority shareholder in the company. We are mediating to end the impasse and find common ground towards a mutually accepted solution to the Larco issue

PPC has asked Greek grid operator ADMIE cut off the electricity supply and Greek authorities have been in discussions with all involved parties in an effort to keep them going, a senior energy ministry official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Energy Minister George Sthathakis held talks this week with the managements of PPC and Larco on the issue, the official said.

"We are mediating to end the impasse and find common ground towards a mutually accepted solution to the Larco issue," Stathakis said after meeting representatives of Larco's workers earlier on Wednesday.

Stathakis said they were working on a plan whereby PPC should refrain from cutting power supplies before the start of the new year. He added that Larco should also cut its output to correspond to lower nickel prices and reduce wage costs. Larco employs about 1,000 people in Greece.

According to Refinitiv Eikon data, the company produced 21,800 tonnes of nickel in 2016. PPC and Larco were not immediately available for comment. The European Court of Justice ruled in February that Greece should recover what it had described as state aid of 135.8 million euros granted to Larco. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by David Evans)

(By Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by David Evans)