Mobilkom makes big push into Bosnia

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Telekom Austria’s cell phone unit Mobilkom offered yesterday to acquire all of Bosnian mobile operator Eronet and take over the third GSM-standard wireless network license from local fixed telecoms operator HT Mostar. Mobilkom said it expanded its June offer for a majority stake in Eronet with an offer to buy the remaining 49 percent stake from Croatia’s Hrvatski Telekom (HT), itself majority owned by Deutsche Telekom. Mobilkom will offer 24.2 million euros ($29.57 million) for a 50.5 percent stake in Eronet to three local firms and take over their debts and license costs, said Mobilkom Chief Executive Boris Nemsic. It also wants to buy HT’s 49 percent in Eronet and then give a 20 percent stake to HT Mostar in return for the GSM license, Nemsic told a news conference. Eronet has infrastructure and base stations to operate a mobile network but does not have a license. HT Mostar, which has operated only a fixed line network in central and southern Bosnia, lacks the necessary infrastructure. It won the third GSM license in July against the only other bidder Eronet. The price for the 15-year license was put at 140 million Bosnian marka ($87.1 million). Croatia’s HT owns 31 percent of HT Mostar and Croatia’s state postal company HP owns another 7 percent. The government controls the rest. HT is offering the government of Bosnia’s Muslim-Croat federation to transfer its shares in Eronet to HT Mostar to enable the two companies to join capacities and operate a mobile network together. Negotiations are under way. Both companies, based in the southern town of Mostar, were jointly set up by HT and local Croat authorities during Bosnia’s 1992-5 war and have long been in an ownership dispute over Eronet. Nemsic said that Mobilkom would offer fresh capital to cash-strapped companies, and transfer the first 10-million-euro payment for the license fees for the operations and taxes. «Mobilkom Austria regards the overall value of the third GSM operator project in Bosnia to be up to 150 million euros,» he said.

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