Greek Utility Keeps Electricity Going for Nickel Company Larco

The Nickel smelting factory in Larymna, Phthiotis. (Photo by: Eurokinissi)

ATHENS – The lights and electricity weren’t turned off at the Greek nickel producer Larco, Europe’s largest, on Jan. 1 as scheduled after a reprieve extended the deadline to Jan. 11 even though the company still hasn’t paid its 280 million euro ($321.71) million bill.

The Greek government has been working on a plan to avert a closure of Larco, asking the producer to cut its output to align itself with lower nickel prices and to reduce wage costs, said Kathimerini, although people who owe small amounts facing having their electricity cut off.

The company, which is 55 percent owned by the state, can’t pay its electric bill to the Public Power Corporation (PPC), also a government entity, an Energy Ministry source who wasn’t identified told the news agency Reuters.

“We are seeking a solution so that the power supply is not cut off,” an unidentified government official earlier said,  adding that Energy Minister George Stathakis held talks with the managements of PPC and Larco over the issue and was due to meet workers representatives. The company has some 1,000 employees.

The European Court of Justice ruled in February that Greece should recover what it called state aid of 135.8 million euros ($154.43 million) given the company at the same time smaller customers are being hounded to pay what they owe after being ground down by pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings.