Turkish-led consortium may buy BTC

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s Privatization Agency said yesterday it had invited the only remaining potential buyer for state telecoms company BTC, a Turkish consortium led by Koc Holding, for talks on the delayed, landmark sell-off. The agency said in a statement the move followed its supervisory board’s decision last Wednesday to scrap a 210-million-euro ($243.9 million) planned sale of 65 percent of BTC to US private equity house Advent due to legal inconsistencies in a preliminary deal signed in March. Analysts have said scrapping the BTC deal undermines Sofia’s credibility among foreign investors, who view the sell-off as a test for the European Union aspirant’s privatization policies. The agency’s supervisory board recommended launching sale talks with the second-ranked bidder, a consortium of Koc Holding and Turk Telekom, which had offered 185 million euros for the same stake but had envisaged fewer staff cuts than Advent. Local media reported in late April there could have been a political decision to switch to the Turkish consortium to please the ethnic Turkish MRF party, on which the government depends for its parliamentary majority. The Turks had proposed reducing BTC’s employees to 20,530 in three years from around 24,800 now.

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