Six for Turk Telekom

ANKARA (Reuters) – Six companies or joint ventures out of 13 which passed the pre-qualification stage in the sell-off of state telecoms company Turk Telekom have now emerged as front-runners, officials said yesterday. Turkey last November launched the sell-off of 55 percent of the company, a fixed-line operator that analysts say might be worth several billion dollars in total. Ten firms are currently examining Turk Telekom’s technical structure and finances after signing confidentiality agreements with the company. The official said the six bidders at the fore are Spain’s Telefonica, Telecom Italia, a joint venture of Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) / Cetel Calik Enerji / Dubai Islamic Bank, Saudi Oger, a venture between Turkey’s Koc Holding and Sabanci Holding and Turkish business group OYAK. The other four groups that have entered the data room are Turkey’s Dogan group, SK Telecom, a group named Turkish Privatization Investors and a consortium of 14 firms led by Turkish mobile phone operator Turkcell subsidiary Turktell Bilisim. Mapa Insaat ve Ticaret and Malaysia’s Multi Global Link have not entered the «data room,» which suggests they would not take part in the tender, although neither company has made a statement to that effect. The last of the 13 groups that passed pre-qualification, Belgium’s main telecommunications operator Belgacom, said earlier this month it would not participate in the tender. A better economic environment in Turkey, a positive company profile, and a revived global interest in the telecoms sector have boosted prospects for Turk Telekom, said an official. Ankara is seeking bids for Telekom by May 31 at the latest. «If there are no extraordinary developments, four or five very good bids could be submitted,» said the same official. Officials said it would not be correct to give a value estimate on Telekom, and a commission is working to set a value for the company. This value will be taken as the basis for the tender once it is approved by the Cabinet. Turk Telekom has 3.5 billion new lira paid-in capital, and is wholly owned by the Turkish Treasury. It has landline and mobile phone networks in addition to data procurement and Internet services. The company has 19 million subscribers as of June 2004 and 21 million landline subscription capacity, and holds a 40 percent stake in GSM operator Avea, in which Telecom Italia Mobile has a 40 percent stake. Turk Telekom technically lost its monopoly status in 2004 after the government opened the market to competition, but still controls the market with no rivals yet in the landline sector.

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