ECONOMY

BTC looking for solid buyer

SOFIA – Proposed terms for the selloff of Bulgarian state telecoms monopoly BTC aim at finding a solid buyer with long-term plans, a senior government official said yesterday. No minimum bid price would be set for the selloff, a priority for the government which took over in July and part of a plan to revitalize the slumbering stock market. «The best option for our telecom market is that BTC has a private owner and this is why we want to guarantee a transparent and competitive procedure and select the best candidate,» Deputy Transport and Communications Minister Nikolai Nikolov said. The ruling National Movement for Simeon II and its junior coalition partner MRF late on Tuesday approved the sale plan. The strategy is expected to be approved by the Cabinet today and then by Parliament. Firms bidding for BTC would need to have revenue of over 500 million euros ($432 million) from main activity in 2001 and over 2 million subscribers. Financial investors need to manage assets of over 300 million euros, said the plan, on which Deutsche Bank advised. If the deal for BTC is won by a consortium, there will be a special provision in the sale contract which bans participants from selling their stakes in BTC to their partners in the consortium for a certain period of time, Nikolov said. «We really don’t want to be in the situation when someone takes part (in the consortium) pro forma and then sells its stake in BTC to its partner in a few months,» he said. Candidates passing the first round would not be allowed to merge with other contenders before the second stage. Bulgaria has said it would offer for sale up to 65 percent of BTC in a two-stage competition open to telecoms firms and financial investors and retain a golden share after the sale. There will be an option for the acquisition of the country’s third GSM network license. Candidates would be asked to submit two separate indicative offers – for a BTC stake and for a GSM license, if they want the option. At the second stage, candidates would present competitive bids only for the BTC stake in order to secure equal treatment for all candidates no matter if they used the GSM license option or not, Nikolov said. The strategy also provides that up to 20 percent of BTC will be placed on the local stock exchange, Nikolov said, a decision that was part of efforts to revive the local stock market. Bulgaria’s underdeveloped stock market had turnover of just 161 million levs ($72 million) last year. A Deutsche Bank source has said the bank had submitted to the Cabinet a list of some 10 companies which might be interested, which included Greek OTE, Hungary’s Matav, Spain’s Telefonica, and financial investors. A Deutsche Bank source has said the bank had submitted to the Cabinet a list of some 10 companies which might be interested, which included Greek OTE, Hungary’s Matav, Spain’s Telefonica, and financial investors.