Turkcell Denies USD 1.4 B Bid for Bulgaria's Vivacom

Business | March 2, 2012, Friday // 15:29|  views

Vivacom - formerly known as the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC) - has gone through a number of controversial privatization deals. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri, the biggest Turkish mobile-phone company, has denied reports it has taken a final decision to bid for Vivacom, valuing the Bulgarian company at about USD 1.4 B.

"Turkcell continues to conduct studies in various countries as part of its ongoing evaluation of investment opportunities, and Bulgarian telecom operator Vivacom is a project evaluated within this context. However, our evaluations on the project continue, and no decision has been taken by the Board of Directors in this matter," says an official statement of the company.

It describes the potential bid amount referred to Turkcell for Vivacom valuation in the media as "groundless".

Three binding bids have already been submitted for Bulgaria's telecom Vivacom and one more is expected within days, local media reports say.

Tsvetan Vassilev, the head of Bulgaria's Corporate Commercial Bank, and Icelandic businessman Thor Bjorgolfsson have made bids for Vivacom, heir to the state-owned Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC), Capital daily reported, citing insiders.

The third bidder to meet the February 27 offer deadline is Pamplona Capital Management LLP, a London-based private equity firm, according to the newspaper.

The amount of the bids was not disclosed.

Morgan Stanley is advising Vivacom's creditors to help sell the company, the people familiar said.

The deadline for submitting binding bids, initially set at February 17, was extended by ten days at the request of one of the potential bidders, who needed more time to take a definitive decision.

Last month reports emerged that Telekom Austria AG, which already owns Mobiltel in Bulgaria, may be interested in Vivacom sale, but the information was eventually denied.

Vivacom - formerly know as the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC) - has gone through a number of controversial privatization deals.

The long-drawn-out and widely criticized EUR 230 M sale deal for 65% stake in Bulgaria's telecom operator BTC was sealed at the end of February 2004 after nearly two years of procedural predicaments, legal and political battles.

Months later Icelandic businessman Thor Bjorgolfsson bought Viva's stake for EUR 300 M and resold it to the investment company AIG Central Europe for EUR 1.08 B.

AIG Investments acquired 65% of the former state-owned telecommunications firm in May 2007. Then in August of the same year it upped its investment to 90%.

Chinese telecoms and media tycoon Richard Li, chairman of Asian telco PCCW, inherited control of Vivacom in March 2010 as part of the acquisition of AIG Investments, a unit of the troubled US insurance group which spans asset management and private equity investments. The unit was renamed Pinebridge Investments ahead of the takeover by Li's Pacific Century group.

Dubai-based Oger Telecom was the closest to taking over the management of the company following negotiations that have dragged on for nearly half a year.

The deal however failed because the final offer was not satisfactory, according to insiders.

The nation of 7.7 million people has three mobile operators, which are foreign owned. Mobiltel is controlled by Telekom Austria, Globul is the local unit of Greece's OTE.

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Tags: Pamplona, Globul, OTE, Mobiltel, Tsvetan Vassilev, Corporate Commercial Bank, Turkcell, turkey, Telekom Austria, Vivacom, Richard Li, Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, BTC, PCCW, AIG, Oger Telecom, Thor Bjorgolfsson, capital, management


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