OTE asks to extend buyback

Telecoms operator Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) said yesterday it will convene an extraordinary general meeting on October 17 to ask for shareholders’ approval for the extension of a share buyback program initiated last year. The announcement, however, did little to reassure investors who had been waiting for more specific details of OTE’s Romanian investments. OTE shares fell 4 percent yesterday to close at 11.04 euros, while mobile phone subsidiary CosmOTE also got a pummeling, with its shares tumbling by 3.36 percent to end at 8.06 euros. Since the beginning of the year, OTE has lost more than a 10th of its market value, with analysts attributing the sell-off to concerns over Romtelecom, in which the Greek operator holds a 35-percent stake. OTE received shareholders’ approval to buy back up to 10 percent of its shares last year. It had acquired only 2.7 percent of its equity up to September 3 when the scheme expired. Shareholders are expected to approve the extension of the program for the next 12 months. An OTE spokeswoman would not comment on when Chief Executive Lefteris Antonakopoulos is due to visit Romania to resolve the issue of an equity injection into Romtelecom. Dimitris Kouvatsos told Kathimerini English Edition last week that the company was waiting for the go-ahead for the visit from the Romanian government. OTE was due to pump $200 million into Romtelecom early this month but to date there has been no announcement on the issue. Analysts said if an agreement is not reached by next month, OTE could possibly write off its Romanian investments. It wrote down the stake by 256 million euros in its 2001 US GAAP accounts, an action which affected its stock price early this year.

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