ECONOMY

Advent to boost BTC services

SOFIA – US equity fund Advent said late on Thursday it aimed to transform Bulgaria’s outdated telecoms operator BTC into a modern European company after winning a long legal and political battle to acquire a majority of the company. Last week Bulgaria invited Advent to sign the 230-million-euro ($289 million) deal to buy 65 percent of BTC by February 20 – which analysts said would help polish Bulgaria’s investment image and help it win further credit rating upgrades. The landmark BTC sale, launched in the spring of 2002, has been beset by procedural problems and by legal and political wrangling that analysts say have sent negative signals abroad. Advent International Manager Chris Mruck said the fund would invest up to 700 million euros to upgrade BTC’s network, restructure the company and boost sales and services in the next five years. «We want to make BTC a more customer-focused organization… The customer can have access to BTC without queuing for hours or waiting for a shop that opens only for two hours (a day),» Mruck told Reuters. Under the BTC package, Advent will receive a mobile license and plans to launch a GSM mobile service in Bulgaria, which will be the country’s third. Mruck said the new mobile company was unlikely to start operation this year. The mobile business would provide an option for Advent to cushion planned layoffs of some 4,300 people by 2006, from the current BTC work force of some 24,800. Last September, Bulgaria’s Supreme Court named Advent as the legitimate winner of the BTC tender but the sell-off agency had failed to say how it would proceed until last week. Mruck said Advent had not received any official explanation for the delay, which he attributed to political disputes. «In a way, we had to win BTC twice – once in the legal process and once to convince people that a company like Advent is a good partner for BTC.»