National among BTC buyers

The acquisition of Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC) by an international consortium led by international investment firm Advent International for 230 million euros was confirmed last week. National Bank of Greece, through its venture capital and private equity subsidiary Ethniki Business Holdings, is part of the consortium but will not reveal its total share in it. The consortium has also undertaken to boost BTC’s capital by 50 million euros, implement a five-year investment plan worth at least 400 million and pledged not to cut more than 4,500 jobs during its first three years of ownership. Until recently BTC was a state monopoly and it is still the only fixed-line provider. As part of its privatization, BTC was awarded Bulgaria’s third mobile telephony license. During 2003, BTC had a turnover of 520 million euros and net profit of 120 million. In a recent article, Private Equity International magazine calls the agreement to buy BTC one of the 30 most remarkable private equity takeovers of all time, alongside some major coups such as the takeover of foods and tobacco conglomerate RJR Nabisco in 1989 and that of Internet browser firm Netscape in 1994. The size of the BTC takeover pales in comparison with the two others. What moved Private Equity to rank it that high was the consortium’s determination to overcome all obstacles, mainly political ones. A few years back, OTE and Dutch company KPN had failed to buy a majority stake in BTC. OTE now owns mobile telephony provider Globul.