SOFIA – Bulgaria’s biggest mobile phone operator Mobiltel said yesterday its Vienna-based owners are ready to sell a stake of between 25 and 49 percent to a strategic investor. Mobiltel Board Chairman Herbert Cordt told a news conference that although Mobiltel was not actively looking for a strategic partner and was not currently in sale talks, there was strong interest in the company. Mobiltel is owned by a consortium made up of Austria’s third biggest bank BAWAG, Management Trust Holding, a fund of the Taus family, financial company Kordt und Partner and family trust MC-Privatstiftung. «When we bought Mobiltel 15 months ago… we were explicit in stressing that as a financial partner we are ready and willing to accept a strategic partner, but only when the time is right,» Cordt said. «We can now say the company is in a much better shape than a year ago,» he added. Cordt declined to name potential candidates. Earlier this week Austrian weekly Profil cited inside sources as saying that British mobile phone giant Vodafone, Finland’s TeliaSonera, Norway’s Telenor and Telekom Austria were interested in Mobiltel. «We are not actively looking for a strategic partner. At the same time, there is a key interest from all sides of the industry. We are talking about strategic partnership… that can be anything between 25 and 49 percent,» Cordt said. Mobiltel’s net profit rose by around 20 percent last year from 2001 and was expected to increase by some 10-15 percent this year, Cordt said. The company doubled its profit to 228 million levs ($125 million) in 2001. Its subscribers rose by 900,000 last year and topped 1.9 million at end-2002 out of the Balkan country’s population of 8 million.