Ljubljana should repeat the tender for the privatisation of Telekom Slovenije, which attracted only one bid - from UK-based private equity fund Cinven - according to the results of a public opinion survey conducted by daily Delo on April 20.
Asked whether the tender for Telekom Slovenije should be repeated or if the company should be sold to the sole bidder, 73% of Delo's poll participants said the sales procedure should be launched again, the daily reported.
Only 12% of the polled support the sale in the current circumstances, while 15% were undecided. The survey was conducted via phone among 400 people on April 14-16 by the daily's market research department, Delo Stik.
Moreover, almost half of the respondents were not in favour of the privatisation at all. 30% said they were firmly against it and 25% did not support it. A further 17% said they were neither for nor against the sale. Only 26% support the privatisation, of which 4% were firmly in favour. 2% said they did not know.
The ongoing sale has been in the public eye ever since it was launched last year since Telekom Slovenije is one of the most valuable state assets. In February, some 3,000 people took to the streets of Ljubljana to demonstrate against the plans to sell off Telekom Slovenije.
More recently, a scandal linked with the privatisation resulted in the removal of Defence Minister Janko Veber, widening the rift between the party of Prime Minister Miro Cerar (SMC) and its junior coalition partner the Social Democrats (SD), of which Veber is a member. A government crisis was narrowly avoided when SD decided to remain within the ruling coalition.
The fact that the latest tender for the telecom's sale attracted only one bid was very disappointing for the Slovenian government, since Deutsche Telekom and US-based investment fund Providence were also expected to submit binding bids after a total of eight companies participated in the earlier tender stage.
Local analysts have warned that the government will have little room for manoeuvre when negotiating with Cinven on the final price, considering the lack of rivalry. So far, the price offered by Cinven remains secret but unofficial media reports claim it is considerably below expectations.
The government had reportedly been hoping to collect €1.6bn from the sale of its 73% stake in Telekom Slovenije.
The participants in the Delo survey were also asked about another key privatisation that was completed earlier in April - the sale of Slovenia's largest beer producer Pivovarna Lasko to Dutch brewer Heineken. Most of the poll participants, some 32%, evaluated it as a positive move with another 8% considering it a very positive move.
By contrast, 19% believe the sale of Lasko was a step in the wrong direction, while 11% consider it very negative. The remaining 7% had no opinion on the subject.
Heineken signed the deal to acquire a 51% stake in Pivovarna Lasko for €114.3mn on April 13. The completion of the acquisition is still subject to regulatory approval.
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