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Slovak minister says buying Elektrarne utility is one 'extreme option' to tackle energy crisis

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Slovakia's Finance Minister Matovic speaks to media as refugees fleeing from Ukraine arrive in Vysne Nemecke

(Reuters) - Buying out majority shareholders of utility Slovenske Elektrarne, including Italy's Enel, is one "extreme" option for Slovakia to tackle Europe's energy crisis hitting the country, Finance Minister Igor Matovic was quoted as saying on Sunday.

However, Matovic said that he saw the most likely solution as capping profits of non-gas energy producers, which is already being worked up in the European Union after the bloc's energy ministers on Friday agreed on the measure.

"One of the solutions is that we try to agree with current shareholders to buy back (their) share in Slovenske Elektrarne," TASR news agency quoted Matovic as saying on a Sunday debate show on private broadcaster TV Markiza.

He said gaining a full stake would allow the state to have control over pricing policies, but he declined to speculate on the cost of such a move.

The Slovak state is 34% owner of the utility, and Enel and Czech energy group EPH jointly own the remaining 66% stake.

The utility agreed in February a household electricity price cap to avoid a windfall tax as the state sought ways to battle soaring energy bills.

Slovakia relies on nuclear power for about half its production, and Slovenske Elektrarne operates the country's only nuclear plants, including two existing units at Mochovce and the 1,000 MW Bohunice nuclear power station.

Trial operation at a third unit at Mochovce has started and the 471-megawatt unit should start producing in early 2023.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)