SMEDEREVO, Serbia, April 18 (Xinhua) -- The contract for the sale of Serbia's sole steel mill was signed between representatives of Serbian government and Chinese HeSteel Group (HBIS) at a ceremony in the city of Smederevo on Monday.
The deal worth 46 million euros was concluded here between HBIS President Yu Yong and Serbian economy minister Zeljko Sertic in the presence of Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, diplomats from the Chinese embassy to Serbia, representatives of HBIS and thousands of workers of the steel mill.
Yu Yong said after the signing that HeSteel Group's planned investments in the next five years will turn the factory in Smederevo into one of the most competitive in Europe.
"HBIS is certain that it can employ all of the current workers in the new factory," he said, promising technical improvements and market expansion.
"We are confident that we will turn the steel mill in Smederevo in a modern complex, with advanced technology, equipment, raised level of environmental protection and good working conditions. Our aim will be to turn Smederevo into one of the most competitive steel mills in Europe," Yu said.
Smederevo steel mill was founded in 1913, and after it went bankrupt in 2003, it was sold to U.S. Steel for the price of 23 million U.S. dollars. Serbia became the owner of the steel mill once again in 2012 when the investor from the United States withdrew and the country bought the factory back with 1 U.S. dollar.
After the departure of U.S. steel, the country was looking for a new investor, while the company's 5,000 workers were sent to a paid leave until April 2013 when the furnaces of the steel mill in Smederevo started operating again with limited capacity.
HBIS was the sole competitor at a tender which finished on April 6, and bought the factory for 46 million euros.
According to the contract, the Chinese company plans to invest at least 300 million euros in the steel mill.
Vucic said that the deal between the Serbian government and HBIS was reached after long and hard negotiations, and that the sales of the Smederevo steel mill presents an important day for Serbia and thousands of workers.
"I'm happy and proud to be here. Many meetings were held concerning this steel mill -- from Washington and Tel Aviv to London," Vucic said, adding that Serbian public company was saved from being shut down with the help of Chinese investors.
On April 6, Vucic announced that the sale of the steel mill in Smederevo will have a major influence on the growth of Serbian GDP which will exceed the planned 1.75 percent, "while next year it can reach from 3.5 to 4 percent, which would bring Serbia closer to the EU standard."
Charge d'Affaires of the Embassy of China to Serbia Lu Shan said the deal was yet another improvement of bilateral relations between Serbia and China.
"Today is an important day for relations between Serbia and China, especially in economic terms," Lu said, concluding that the strategic partnership between the two countries rose to a higher level.