ECONOMY

Sale of Bulgaria’s telecoms utility looks like it may be delayed

SOFIA (Reuters) – London-based private equity house Advent said yesterday it was pressing ahead with talks to buy Bulgaria’s telecom monopoly BTC but may fail to strike a deal this year, as some aspects of the sale remained unresolved. Bulgaria has named Advent as its preferred buyer for BTC, whose sale is one of the year’s top economic priorities for the government and is seen by investors as a test of its ability to press ahead with planned privatizations. Advent has offered 200 million euros ($201.8 mln) for 65 percent of BTC, while the second bidder, a consortium of Turkey’s Koc Holding and Turk Telekom, has offered 185 million euros. The Privatization Agency, which is handling the sale, has said a deal should be signed within 50 days of its having notified the selected buyer on October 25. «We think concluding the deal this year is very, very tight… but we are doing everything in our power to move the process as fast as possible,» Advent International Managing Director Joanna James told Reuters in an interview. «The time pressure is not helpful for any of the interested parties. It is better to get it right than to rush things against an artificial deadline and make mistakes.» Although delaying the deal would not affect the budget of one of the poorest European Union aspirants, it would certainly not improve its reputation among investors, as Prime Minister and former King Simeon Saxe-Coburg has hoped. James said the BTC sale might be delayed partly due to a planned telecom law regulating the sector after BTC’s monopoly expires in 2003, which has not yet been approved by Parliament.