BTC January ruling

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s supreme court said yesterday it would decide in 30 days whether to declare invalid a 200-million-euro planned sale of a 65-percent stake in state telecom monopoly BTC to London-based private equity house Advent. Bulgaria’s landmark sales of BTC and tobacco monopoly Bulgartabak have stumbled against legal problems, dealing a major blow to the reformist government’s goal to complete the two privatizations by the end of this year. Earlier this month, the chief prosecutor’s office suspended the BTC sale following an appeal by the opposition, the center-right UDF party. The prosecutor’s office said that Advent’s acquisition vehicle, Vienna-based Viva Ventures, had not been properly registered and did not meet requirements set in Parliament-approved BTC’s selloff strategy. The offer has triggered a high-profile debate about whether the sale should go ahead. The opposition and trade unions say the price and the planned investment are too low, while planned job cuts are too steep. In 2000, the UDF government had rejected a bid of $610 million for 51 percent of BTC by Greece’s OTE and Dutch firm KPN.

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