OTE deal may have broken bloc rules

The European Commission has asked Greece for more information on whether a deal involving Deutsche Telekom’s (DT) acquisition of a stake in peer OTE shortchanged minority shareholders. Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier was cited by Greek MEP Nikos Hountis of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) as saying that Greece was asked in October last year to provide information on the privatization agreement to see whether minority shareholder rights were protected. In 2008, DT acquired 25 percent of OTE after picking up stakes held by Marfin Investment Group and the Greek government. In the following year, it bought another 5 percent of OTE, leaving the Greek government with a 20 percent holding in the former state monopoly. Some investors claim that EU directives require DT to make a public offer for OTE as it controls 50 percent of the company together with the government. Hountis said in a statement that a lack of a public offer places the deal in jeopardy unless the Bonn-based telecom operator is prepared to compensate minority shareholders. «The Commission’s initial investigation finds that directives have not been properly enforced,» the statement added. Brokers, on the other hand, played down the importance of the EU inquiry, saying that Greek law allows for investors to sidestep an obligatory public offer in the event of government privatization.

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