BRATISLAVA -- Slovak Economy Minister Pavol Rusko said on Monday he favored moving the planned Kia Motors 1 billion-euro ($1.23 billion) plant to a new site in Slovakia due to protracted disputes with landowners in the original location.
Slovakia's plan to prepare the site for its largest green-field investment hit a snag in May as several landowners refused to sell their land for prices offered by the state.
Rusko said he would propose to the government three ways to tackle the problem and keep the South Korean car producer in the new EU member, including relocating the plant from the northern town of Zilina.
"We will do everything what we can to save Kia for Slovakia," Rusko told a news conference. He said relocating the plant was the cheapest and fastest way to continue with the investment.
He added a new site might be ready in three months, while other options could cause longer delays. The cabinet will debate on Wednesday whether to agree to demands for a new valuation of the land or to expropriate the land.
But even a new estimate would not significantly accelerate the process because the ministry does not expect it to come up with much higher price than the state's original offer.
Expropriation, on the other hand, might take up to nine months to carry out, Rusko said.
A source at Kia told Reuters last week it did not make sense for the car maker to think about a different site in Slovakia.
However, Rusko said on Monday he would talk to the firm later this week as he had not yet received an official statement excluding such possibility.
The government would need an approval from PSA Peugeot Citroen if the substitute Kia site was within 100 kilometers of the western town of Trnava, where the French firm is building a 300,000 cars-a-year factory.
The state has purchased around 80 percent of land needed for Kia and its parts supplier Hyundai Mobis. It was supposed to prepare the site for Kia by the end of August.