Top Bulgarian court overrules suspension of mobile license

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s Supreme Court yesterday overruled a decision that had suspended a third GSM mobile phone license granted to formerly state-owned telecom firm BTC as part of its recent sale to US equity fund Advent. The ruling, which is final and cannot be appealed, gives a green light to BTC to build up its GSM network and ends one of several legal battles over whether BTC can enter Bulgaria’s hotly contested mobile phone market. The license was granted to BTC in June as a sweetener to the 230-million-euro privatization deal. It was then suspended last month after two companies, including Bulgaria’s second-largest mobile phone operator Globul, contested the decision. Yesterday, the five-jury Supreme Court said in a statement it had approved an appeal by the Communications Regulation Commission (CRC) against the lower court ruling that had suspended the license. The Supreme Court said the protests from Globul – controlled by Greece’s OTE – and US-registered Taffeta Limited had been «inadmissible» due to a «lack of a legal interest.» The two operators had claimed that CRC’s decision to grant the permit had broken competition rules, as the license was awarded without a tender. They also complained that the price BTC paid – 27 million euros – was too low. CRC chief Gergana Sarbova welcomed yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling. The BTC privatization is a crucial step for the poor Balkan state to overhaul its economy and liberalize its markets ahead of EU entry, expected in 2007.

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