Serbian government ready to complete Telekom Srbija sale by October – media report

By bne IntelliNews June 8, 2015

The Serbian government is ready to complete the sale of Telekom Srbija by October, with a timetable of selecting a privatisation model in the coming weeks and launching the tender in the summer, according to an unnamed source from the government, quoted by daily Blic.

French consultancy firm Lazard Freres has reportedly submitted to the government its proposal on several possible options for the telecom firm’s privatisation, the unnamed source told Blic on June 5.

Lazard has elaborated on several options, ranging from selling a minority stake to offering the full 100% ownership. This week, Lazard representatives are expected to carry out a special presentation on the proposed scenarios in order to explain all the details to the working group in charge of the privatisation.

The working group is headed by Telecommunications Minister Rasim Ljajic and also includes Finance Minister Dusan Vujovic, Economy Minister Zeljko Sertic and Telekom Srbija’s CEO Predrag Culibrk.

“The working group should complete its part of the job in the coming two weeks and then present the selected model to the government, which will give the final say,” the source said.

Reportedly, the asking price in the sale will be discussed only after holding initial talks with potential buyers in order to examine which type of investment is preferred.

According to Blic, apart from Telekom Austria and Deutsche Telekom, which have officially declared their interest in Telekom Srbija, several unnamed investment funds have also indicated they are willing to participate in the sale.

Local media reported earlier this year that an US investment fund, in cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), is also eyeing Telekom Srbija’s privatisation tender.

Moreover, 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.

Serbia last tried to sell its most profitable firm in 2011, estimating its value at the time at €2.2bn. 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.

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.

Telekom Srbija appointed Lazard to advise it on its pending privatisation at the end of March, after the French company was the only one that participated in an international tender for the consultancy services.

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