ECONOMY

OTE boss calls for aggressive price strategy

THESSALONIKI – OTE Telecom, the former state company which still holds a quasi-monopoly over fixed telephone lines, will follow an «aggressive» rates policy to counter competition from newcomers on the fixed telephony market, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lefteris Antonakopoulos told reporters yesterday. Antonakopoulos did make specific announcements, but said that he would offer attractive price packages targeted at individual consumers and corporations. Antonakopoulos ruled out any further investments and acquisitions abroad, saying his priority was to consolidate existing operations. He did say OTE would like to increase its stake in Romtelecom, but added that, in case talks with the Romanian monopoly and the government failed, OTE would also consider leaving the Romanian market altogether. Antonakopoulos said he expected the negotiations with the Romanian government to last three months. Antonakopoulos added that OTE is ready to enter into talks with the Serbian government to increase its stake in Telekom Srbija. OTE owns a 20-percent stake in the company and would be willing to acquire Telecom Italia’s 29-percent stake. At present, he said, he had no idea what Telecom Italia’s intentions were. He added that the company’s subsidiary mobile telephony company in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would begin operations by the end of the year and announced several investment projects in the Thessaloniki area, which will host the EU Summit in June, 2003. Investments will include setting up a TETRA digital radio communications network, used at present only at the new Athens international airport. One cannot ignore price competition, Antonakopoulos said, but any adjustment will not be made to the detriment of quality. He added that the next round of price changes will take place either at the end of this year or during the first quarter of 2003. OTE announced last week its net profit fell 15.6 percent year-on-year as it shouldered costs for restructuring to adapt to a deregulated fixed-line market. Sales grew 6.6 percent year-on-year, boosted by solid mobile phone growth at home and abroad which helped offset lower revenues from fixed line telephony.