Mobiltel sale deal seen likely by end of June

SOFIA (Reuters) – Owners of Bulgaria’s dominant mobile phone operator, Mobiltel, are likely to clinch a deal to sell a 40 percent stake to a group of financial investors by the end of June, a source familiar with the process said yesterday. Analysts value Mobiltel, which controls 75 percent of the nascent local mobile telecoms market, at between 1 billion and 1.4 billion euros ($1.2-1.7 billion), and the transaction is expected to be the largest ever in Bulgaria’s telecoms sector. On Monday, Bulgaria’s anti-monopoly authorities gave the green light to Mobiltel’s owners, a group of Austrian individual and institutional investors including regional bank BAWAG, to proceed with the closely guarded transaction. «By the end of June, it should be finished,» the source, who wished not to be named, told Reuters. The ongoing deal is seen as a possible precursor to the sale of a majority stake to Telekom Austria, which said last month it was hoping to renew previously collapsed talks to buy control once the minority share changes hands. Bulgarian media have reported that Citigroup, ING and ABN Amro are closely involved, possibly to provide financing. Mobile phone usage in Bulgaria is low, at only 30-35 percent of the population, compared with well over 50 percent in central Europe.

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