Czech Barrandov Studios owner Moravia Steel has brushed off government suggestions that the Prague film complex might be re-nationalised, with Moravia Steel supervisory board chairman Tomas Chrenek saying he had only read about the suggestion in the press and had heard no official word from the government about the proposal.

Czech Culture Minister Pavel Dostal told local daily Mlada Fronta Dnes earlier this month that a plan was in the works that would involve the return of Barrandov to state hands. Dostal said there was about a 30% chance of re-nationalising, and using the revenues from the studios to finance Czech film and further investments in the studios.

Some five years ago Barrandov's owners, Moravia Steel, a metallurgical congolmerate, announced plans to sell the studios, however, it failed to find a buyer. Filmmakers say the studio is badly in need of investment to keep up with growing demand, led by foreign filmmakers eager to capitalise on the country's low costs.

Following a public tender last year, Chrenek told screendaily last week that Moravia Steel was in no hurry to sell the profit-making studio, although ultimately it would do so in order to focus on its core business of steel production.

Chrenek said the company had received five offers following last year's tender, but was currently continuing discussions with only two of them. He refused to disclose any of the bidders, although leading Czech production services company Stillking is known to be among the interested buyers.

Chrenek said the Czech financial group PPF was not one of the bidders. Similarly, leading Czech TV station Nova, of which PPF is a major shareholder, was also out of the picture.

Chrenek said none of the bidders had offered what Moravia Steel considered a reasonable price for its 79% stake in Barrandov.

"The right price could be presented by a combination of adequate movie producers and developers," said Chrenek. He added, "In case we are not finding an appropriate buyer, we are ready to invest additional funds to develop AB Barrandov."