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Eight Bidders Look to Help Croatia Find Highway Operator

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Croatia collected eight bids to advise the government to select an operator for its new highway system, said Transport Ministry official Marija Hrebec.

Macquarie Group Ltd., Goldman Sachs International, BNP Paribas SA, N M Rothschild & Sons, submitted individual bids to advise the search for strategic partners for the project, Hrebec said in the capital Zagreb today. Offers ranged from 50 million kuna ($8.7 million) to 86 million kuna, she said.

“As a global specialist, we’ve made a strong decision that Croatia is the market we want to be present in,” Mark Dooley, Macquarie’s senior marketing director, said in an interview today.

The former Yugoslav republic is trying to upgrade its infrastructure and transport links as it prepares to join the European Union in 2013. The future operator will run the highway system for 30 to 35 years in exchange for as much as 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion), Transport Minister Sinisa Hajdas Doncic said on Sept. 11.

Zagrebacka Banka d.d., a unit of UniCredit SpA, and JP Morgan Chase & Co. made a joint bid, as did Erste Bank Group AG and Deloitte and Touche and a group made up of Lazard Freres, Watson Farley and Williams LLP Paris, according to Hrebec. Odvjetnicko Drustvo Bardek, Lisac, Musec, Skoko, Sarolic d.o.o. is the final bidder in a joint bid with CMC Reich-Rohrwig GmbH Vienna and the Economy Institute of Zagreb, she said.

Macquarie, Australia’s biggest investment bank, in September also bid to build a thermoelectric plant in the Istria peninsula. It expressed interest in May to help arrange 1 billion euros in financing for construction and renovation of Croatian schools and public buildings.

The government will tell the bidders its decision in 45 days, and make a public announcement 15 days later, Hrebec said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jasmina Kuzmanovic in Zagreb at jkuzmanovic@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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