Bulgaria’s largest telco Vivacom offered for sale

By bne IntelliNews July 13, 2019

Vivacom, Bulgaria’s largest telecoms operator, has been put up for sale with Lazard being appointed to sell it, the Financial Times (FT) reported on July 12.

Vivacom is the brand name under which operates the Bulgarian telecoms operator BTC. Its privatisation was marred by controversy and an ownership dispute is still not closed.

According to FT, meetings with potential strategic and private equity buyers have already been held and Spas Roussev, a Bulgarian businessman who heads the consortium behind Vivacom, has confirmed the telco is for sale.

Roussev holds 46% of Vivacom, while VTB Capital, the UK arm of sanctions-hit Russian VTB Bank, holds around 20%. Delta Capital International, which is the investment vehicle of Bulgaria’s former finance minister Milen Veltchev and his brother George, holds a 20% stake.

The sales procedure for BTC was launched by VTB Capital in 2015, after InterV, which owns 100% of BTC through two subsidiaries, failed to repay a €150mn bridge loan. The financing was secured via a share pledge over 100% of the shares of InterV.

Russian company Empreno Ventures, owned by businessman Dmitry Kosarev, reportedly linked with Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, has made several unsuccessful attempts to declare the deal null and void in courts in Bulgaria and Luxembourg.

According to the FT, Kosarev sent a letter to Lazard, saying that he will continue pursuing his claims in the UK courts.

The post-privatisation history of BTC, Bulgaria’s communist-era fixed-line monopoly, has been mired in controversy, as its ownership has changed several times since its sell-off in 2004, and tracking its end-owner has been challenging.

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