Deutsche Telekom said to offer to buy Greek OTE stake

By Nikos Chrysoloras and Cornelius Rahn

Deutsche Telekom AG has made an offer to buy the 10 percent stake in Hellenic Telecommunications Organization SA held by the Greek government, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Germany’s biggest phone company owns 40 percent of Hellenic Telecommunications, the carrier also known as OTE. It’s not immediately clear how much Deutsche Telekom offered. The people asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

OTE shares jumped as much as 5.8 percent in Athens and traded 4.5 percent higher at 10.95 euros as of 1:01 p.m. local time, giving the company a market value of 5.4 billion euros ($7.3 billion). They have risen more than nine-fold from a record low in June 2012 as Chief Executive Officer Michael Tsamaz sold assets to refinance debt and eliminated jobs.

A Deutsche Telekom spokesman declined to comment on any offer for OTE. A representative for Greece’s Asset Development Fund, the finance ministry agency responsible for state-asset privatization, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Deutsche Telekom CEO Timotheus Hoettges, who met with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Athens on Thursday, called OTE a "strong cornerstone" in its plan to create an “integrated pan-European network."

Deutsche Telekom, based in Bonn, has spent about 4 billion euros accumulating shares in OTE since 2008. In 2011, at a time when the stock was plummeting, the Greek government sold a 10 percent stake via a put option to the German operator for about 400 million euros.

OTE has announced 1.2 billion euros of network investments over four years to help it compete with Vodafone Group Plc’s Greek unit and Wind Hellas Telecommunications SA.

Tsamaz was named on Friday to the board of directors at EE, Deutsche Telekom’s UK wireless venture with Orange SA. He is set to replace Claudia Nemat in that function as of Feb. 1, the German carrier said.