Business, Economics and Jobs

Austria delays plan to sell mountains

Austria has pulled two alpine peaks offering the "most stunning views of the Alps" off the open market amid national outrage.

BIG, a government agency that purchases state property and then resells it to the private sector, was offering the peaks — "Rosskopf," which is over 8,500 feet high, and "Grosse Kinigat," nearly 8,800 feet — for 121,000 euros — or nearly $175,000.

BIG, or Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft, announced the postponement after discussions with Economics Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner.

"We have broken off the sale [originally set for July 8], pending a review," said agency spokesman Ernst Eichinger, according to the Austrian Times.

He said the transaction would likely go ahead but buyers would be restricted to "Austrian institutions" instead of the highest free-market bidders.

The mountains are in Tyrol province, home to some of Europe's highest mountain ranges, and considered by many to be part of the nation's heritage. Austria's national anthem begins with the words "Land of Mountains."

News over the weekend that the two summits were up for sale next month quickly went viral, the AP reports.

Eichinger reportedly said that his office had been bombarded with calls and e-mails with contents ranging from "indignation to abuse."

Fritz Gurgiser, a Tyrol-based prizewinning environmentalist and a lawmaker in the provincial parliament, reportedly  said: "They should keep their hands off our mountains. They are holy for us."

On Tuesday, the mountains were still on offer on BIG's website, complete with photos and a text describing the "Grosse Kinigat" "one of the most beautiful observation points of the ... Alps."

Any buyer would be contractually bound to allow vacationers and alpinists free access to the peaks. Restrictions would also be placed on any advertising or buildings erected on the sites, specifically those that did not fit the region's character, the AP reports.