Serbian government moves to launch privatisation of Telekom Srbija

By bne IntelliNews June 26, 2015

The Serbian government decided on June 25 to launch the privatisation process for Telekom Srbija. The government has tasked the economy ministry and the Privatisation Agency to set the plan in motion, it said in a statement on its website.

Earlier this year, Serbia hired French consultancy firm Lazard Freres to advise it on the pending sale, as well as to determine Telekom Srbija’s value and draft an economic, legal and market analysis of the company. Lazard reportedly submitted to the government at the beginning of June its proposals, containing several possible options for the telecom firm’s privatisation, ranging from selling a minority stake to offering the full 100% ownership.

A report in daily Novosti in mid-June claimed the government in Belgrade will most likely opt for first exploring investor interest in the planned privatisation of Telekom Srbija and only after that make a final decision on the preferred privatisation model. This would mean there will be no official announcements on the telecom’s estimated value before the government discovers how much potential buyers are ready to pay.

Serbia last tried to sell its most profitable firm in 2011, estimating its value at the time at €2.2bn. Back then it offered 51% to investors, seeking €1.4bn. Telekom Austria was the sole bidder, offering €900mn for the stake and a further €500mn for investments, which the government said was not enough.

The government now hopes to complete the sale of Telekom Srbija by October. Telekom Austria and Deutsche Telekom have officially declared their interest in Telekom Srbija, and local media claim several unnamed investment funds have also indicated they are willing to participate in the sale.

In addition, the head of the EBRD's office in Belgrade, Matteo Patrone, said in January that the bank is not interested in being an advisor on the sale of Telekom Srbija but is instead willing to co-invest together with a strategic partner, or to finance the company that wins the privatisation tender.

It will soon become clear whether the government will again offer only 51% of the company or if it will offer its complete stake of 70%. The remainder belongs to Serbian citizens and current and former company employees.

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