Romtelecom float is revived

BUCHAREST – Romania yesterday revived plans to float its stake in fixed-line operator Romtelecom and said the country’s biggest share offering could go ahead next year. Telecommunication Minister Iuliu Winkler told Reuters market conditions would be favorable for the sale of the government’s 46 percent stake in the middle or third quarter of 2008. He would not estimate the value of the stake in Romtelecom, which is majority-owned by Greece’s OTE, but a predecessor forecast it could fetch over -1 billion. The float was scheduled for 2006 but was delayed after recent privatizations came under the spotlight on suspicion of commercial espionage. Analysts believe the listing will help to boost liquidity on the local stock exchange which has a capitalization of just under -28 billion. «I will not make any financial estimation. The success of Romtelecom’s commercial operations… a joint offer (of products) by Romtelecom and Cosmote can produce results which I wouldn’t want now to quantify,» Winkler said in an interview. Romtelecom and mobile phone operator Cosmote have said they plan to cooperate in selling their products, signaling the start of the convergence of their operations. The minister took over in July from Zsolt Nagy, who faces a criminal investigation on suspicion of leaking confidential privatization data. Winkler dismissed media reports that he is seeking to sack Credit Suisse, the IPO advisers. «We have a contract with CS. I invited CS to have a first meeting with them in Bucharest in the coming weeks to assess the situation of the consultancy contract,» Winkler said. Nagy has said he asked Credit Suisse to withdraw from the contract, saying the listing could not take place without the full trust of potential investors. The move followed the temporary arrests of a Credit Suisse banker and former government officials last year on suspicions they leaked secret documents on a privatization program.