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EghtesadOnline: Chinese and Iranian state-owned companies are interested in taking over loss-making Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) as part of a long-term lease deal, Privatisation Commission Chairman Mohammad Zubair has said.

Built by the Soviet Union in 1970s, state-owned PSM has become a huge drain on government resources and shuttered steel production in 2015. PSM has accumulated losses worth 163 billion rupees ($1.56bn) and other outstanding debts, according to IRNA.

The government had hoped to sell PSM but has struggled to find buyers and faced opposition to the sale from the provincial Sindh government, as well as a powerful union which represents many of the 14,000 PSM workers.

Zubair said the government was still open to selling PSM, but a long-term lease was now likely, with Chinese and Iranian companies showing “interest” in taking over the vast factory on the outskirts of Karachi.

“We will go for a 45-year lease and are targeting foreign investors, as well as local companies,” Zubair said.

He added the sale and any possible lease would have to be approved by the Privatisation Board and the Cabinet Committee.

The commission will hold investor roadshows in Lahore and Karachi next week to gauge local interest in PSM.

Pakistan promised the International Monetary Fund that it would privatise PSM and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) as part of the $6.7bn national bailout loan agreed in 2013. 

Pakistan Steel Mohammad Zubair