ECONOMY

Telekom Austria buys Mobiltel, biggest Bulgarian mobile operator, for 1.6 bln

VIENNA (AFP) – Telekom Austria yesterday signed a contract to buy Mobiltel, the biggest Bulgarian mobile phone operator, for 1.6 billion euros ($1.97 billion), the company said. The deal, first announced last December, is expected to be finalized in July and will assure Telekom Austria of «a strategic advantage» in the market, general manager Heinz Sundt said in a statement. Mobiltel currently has 3.14 million subscribers and had a turnover of 119 million euros in the first quarter of 2005, according to the statement. The Bulgarian company was bought for 1.2 billion euros in May 2004 by Austrian stakeholders linked to ABN AMRO Capital, Citigroup Investments Inc and Communications Venture Partners Ltd in the biggest takeover in the sector in Central and Eastern Europe. Austrian investor Martin Schaff will hold 40 percent of Mobiltel and another investor Josef Taus will hold 10 percent. Telekom Austria, the country’s biggest telecommunications operator, reported a 64 percent increase in net profit in the first quarter of the year, up to 115.7 million euros from 70.7 million euros in the same period in 2004.