Bosnia region getting set for telecom sale

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The government of Bosnia’s Muslim-Croat federation has prepared a new plan for the sale of its two telecom companies and will forward it to parliament soon, the region’s prime minister was quoted as saying yesterday. The state owns 90 percent of Sarajevo-based BH Telekom, Bosnia’s largest telecommunications company, and just over 50 percent of Mostar-based HT Mostar. «If the parliament supports the government plan… there will be a lot of work ahead of us to prepare an international tender and choose consultants,» federation Prime Minister Nedzad Brankovic told the Dnevni Avaz newspaper. The federation government, facing budget problems due to a generous benefit program for victims of the country’s 1992-95 war, hopes to use proceeds from selling the two companies for capital investment. Preliminary estimates put the value of BH Telekom at up to 3 billion Bosnian marka ($2.3 billion). The company made a profit of 163.4 million marka in 2007. Brankovic said the government planned to sell a 51 percent stake in BH Telekom to a strategic investor, a 10 percent stake to investors on an international bourse and 4 percent to citizens on the local stock exchange. The government would keep a 25 percent stake as well as a golden share that would allow it to retain a key part in decision making, Brankovic said. It would apply the same model to HT Mostar, where Croatia’s T-HT owns 39.1 percent, Croatia’s postal firm 5.23 percent and small shareholders 5.67 percent. An 11 percent stake would be offered to a strategic investor, Brankovic said. T-HT, which is majority-owned by Deutsche Telekom, would «have the right of the favored buyer under an earlier agreement,» federation Deputy Prime Minister Gavrilo Grahovac was quoted as telling the daily. The parliament blocked a government plan for privatization of the two companies in 2006, since when they have faced increased competition from Bosnia’s third operator Telekom Srpske, based in Bosnia’s other autonomous half, the Serb Republic.