Bulgaria's Telco Shareholders Ok Debt Swap Plan

Business | October 10, 2012, Wednesday // 11:48|  views

Bulgarian incumbent telco BTC, which operates under the brand name Vivacom, was eyeing a Turkish new owner earlier this year, but the sale deal failed. File photo

The sale of the Bulgarian incumbent telco BTC, which operates under the brand name Vivacom, has been nearly finalized, it emerged this week.

The company's shareholders approved this week the proposed debt swap plan, paving the way for Russian bank VTB and Bulgarian Corporate Commercial Bank to take control over the company soon.

Corporate Commercial Bank and VTB Capital will acquire at least a 73% stake in the debt-ridden telco, which is expected to be equally distributed between them.

The tie-in between Bulgarian lender Corporate Commercial Bank and Russian peer VTB Capital submitted a bid for the debt-ridden Bulgarian telco Vivacom at the end of July and creditors accepted the offered terms a week later.

CCBank holds nearly half of the deposits by state-run companies and is widely known as the government's darling.

The lenders' restructuring talks aimed at securing better terms and reducing the debt, which is burdening BTC, its parent company NEF Telecom Bulgaria and the holding company that owns NEF Telecom.

Vivacom's debts totaled EUR 1.7 B

Under the proposed restructuring, CCBank and VTB Bank have offered to pay EUR 130 M in cash to senior lender for a majority stake, with EUR 588 M of reinstated loans.

A minority stake in BTC will be owned by the senior secured creditors.

Vivacom - formerly known 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%. AIG Investments was rebranded to PineBridge Investments ahead of its acquisition by Richard Li's Pacific Century Group (PCG) in 2010.

Dubai-based Oger Telecom was the closest to taking over the management of the company following negotiations that dragged on for nearly half a year. The deal however failed because the final offer was not satisfactory, according to insiders.

The telco was also eyeing a Turkish new owner earlier this year, but the sale deal failed.

Vivacom is the third largest mobile operator in Bulgaria after Telekom Austria 's Mobiltel and Greek OTE's Globul.

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Tags: Royal Bank of Scotland, CCBank, Thor Bjorgolfsson, NEF Telecom, lender, Russian, Bulgarian, PineBridge Investments, VTB Capital, VTB Bank, Bulgaria, mobile operator, Pamplona, Globul, OTE, Mobiltel, Tsvetan Vassilev, Corporate Commercial Bank, Turkcell, turkey, Telekom Austria, Vivacom, Richard Li, Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, BTC, mobile market, AIG Investments


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