EC Gives Green Light for Bulgarian Telco Purchase

Business | October 22, 2012, Monday // 17:30|  views

The second largest Russian bank VTB (VTB Capital) and the Bulgarian Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) are going to buy over 70% of Bulgaria's telecom Vivacom / BTC. Photo by

The European Commission gave Monday the green light for the purchase of Bulgarian telecom Vivacom by the country's Corporate Commercial Bank and the Russian bank VTB.

The official notification about the approval of the deal has been published in the newspaper of the EU on September 22 and provides joint control on the telecom through acquisition of shares.

After reviewing the facts and circumstances of the transaction, the European Commission announced that it authorized the acquisition, thus lifting the last hurdle before the final purchase, the Bulgarian National Radio reported.

Bulgarian lender Corporate Commercial Bank and Russian peer VTB Capital are expected to acquire Bulgaria's Vivacom in November.

This emerged after the company's shareholders approved the proposed debt swap plan, paving the way for Russian bank VTB and Bulgarian Corporate Commercial Bank to take control.

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


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