ECONOMY

OTE amends its charter to private entity status

The Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) yesterday amended its charter to reflect the State’s reduced role while abolishing the traditional board seat for its trade unions. OTE President and Managing Director Nikos Manassis told shareholders at the extraordinary general meeting yesterday that the changes constituted a landmark in the company’s relationship with the State. They will also enable the company to compete with new entrants to the deregulated domestic telecommunications market with greater flexibility. OTE’s transformation to a private entity began when the State cut its 51-percent stake to 42 percent in June with the launch of a 900-million-euro convertible bond. The issue which was priced at a 23-percent premium, raised 305 billion drachmas for the state coffers. Shareholders at yesterday’s meeting however cleared the way for the State to further lower its minority share as they approved the possibility of an official stake equivalent to a third of OTE’s share capital. Shareholders also made the momentous decision to do away with the seat on the board traditionally allocated to labor unions as they rescinded the article allowing for minority representation on OTE’s board. The move underlines the fact that private investors are now the majority stakeholders rather than the State, OTE said in a statement. For more than two decades, the company’s trade unions have often proved to be a thorn in the company’s side, with their strident opposition to OTE’s privatization and plans to reduce its bloated workforce. OTE’s charter was also amended to allow shareholders to elect its management at annual general assemblies for five-year terms. The change came on the heels of a parliamentary bill passed over the summer which ended the system of political appointees for the telecoms operator, National Bank and Commercial Bank. OTE shareholders also approved the right for the company president to hold the post of managing director concurrently. Nikos Manassis currently combines both roles. Another change designed to bring the company more in line with international practice is the introduction of a stock option program for management executives in the initial stage. This will gradually expand to include all employees and subsidiaries. Under the stock option scheme, OTE staff will be offered up to 1 percent of existing equity at a price equal to the average price of the company’s shares in the month preceding a general meeting. The charter was also amended yesterday to allow for various activities and subsidiaries to be spun off. OTE’s real estate holdings, major corporate clients and the phone book division are expected to see increased growth as a result of the move. Subsidiaries such as OTE Estate, OTE Globe and InfOTE are also due to be hived off. The telecoms operator also announced a share buyback of up to 10 percent of its equity in the next 12 months at a price range of 10 to 30 euros. It has already bought back 3 percent of its share capital up to the present. OTE last month announced better than expected first-half results, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization rising to 837.4 million euros.