Telekom Srbija braves prospect of market liberalization in June

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Telekom Srbija said yesterday it would not oppose the liberalization of its landline monopoly when it expires this June and was ready to take on any competition. «We have shown in the past four years that we know how to work under competition in the market,» general manager Drasko Petrovic told a news conference. «We shall not ask for the extension of the landline monopoly. «For us any competition which has a reputation not only in the Balkans but also in the European Union is very useful. It will make us even better.» The firm has been buoyed by good results at its mobile unit, which tripled its market share in four years to reach 60 percent of domestic users and surpass rival GSM operator Mobtel. The landline monopoly is set to expire on June 9 and it is up to the Serbian government to decide on its extension. Telekom Srbija, 80 percent-owned by the state-run post office and 20 percent by Greece’s OTE, has a fixed-line monopoly, a mobile unit and an Internet provider. Petrovic said he hoped they would not be spun off into separate firms, and added that his company planned to completely digitize its landline network in Serbia by 2007. He said it expected to invest around 300 million euros in its mobile network and Internet units this year and hoped to end the year with some 2.8 million GSM subscribers, up from the current 2.5 million, and to reach 3 million soon.