ECONOMY

OTE decides against submitting bid for majority stake in BTC

OTE Telecom announced yesterday it was not submitting a bid for a majority stake in Bulgarian national telecom operator BTC because the sale did not fit in with its plans. «OTE reviewed in detail the bid documentation, looking for ways to strengthen the position of its mobile telephony subsidiary Globul, in which it holds the entirety of the shares. The result of the review is OTE’s decision to continue on the further expansion of its Globul subsidiary,» it said. A deadline for non-binding bids in BTC expired earlier yesterday. Bulgaria’s Privatization Agency announced it had received three indicative bids for a 65-percent stake in BTC but declined to name the candidates. OTE had been touted as a front runner for the Bulgarian state monopoly after its previous bid with former Dutch partner KPN Telecom was rejected in 2000. The BTC privatization is Bulgaria’s biggest sell-off this year and is crucial for raising cash in one of the poorest European Union aspirants. OTE has said its only reason for participating in the BTC bid would have been to protect and expand its Globul mobile operation launched in mid-2001. But investors have been skeptical about OTE pouring more funds into a fixed-line investment in the Balkans that would require substantial sums of money to upgrade. OTE has said it wants to focus on improving the performance of its present regional investments and has put plans for expansion to new markets on hold. Greece’s largest company by market capitalization, OTE has a regional network that includes fixed-line investments in Serbia and Romania and mobile interests in Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Romania, as well as in Bulgaria. (Reuters)