Advent gets go-ahead for BTC deal

The Bulgarian Supreme Court has confirmed that Advent International can proceed with its E200m deal for the state-owned telecommunications company.

( Global private equity firm Advent International today received legal backing for its stalled E200m bid for state telecommunications company BTC when Bulgaria's Supreme Court confirmed the firm is preferred buyer of a controlling stake.


The chief prosecutor's office of Bulgaria last month asked the court to declare invalid the planned sale of 65 per cent of BTC to Advent, saying that its acquisition vehicle, Vienna-based Viva Ventures, had not been properly registered and that the sell-off “did not meet legal requirements for a transparent and economically effective privatisation.”


BTC, which serves only 38 per cent of the country of eight million, expects a seven per cent rise in revenues to $551.3m and a 20 per cent increase in net profit to $150m for 2002.


Viva Ventures' winning bid for BTC was E45.48 per share, topping the E42.2 per share offer from an all-Turkish consortium of Koc Holding and Turk Telekom. Both groups pledged to raise BTC's capital by E50m and to invest a further E400 million in the next five years.


A previous attempt to sell BTC during the upturn of the telecom market in 2000 to a Dutch-Greek consortium of Royal KPN and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation for $610m, failed when bids disappointed in terms of price.


The latest tender similarly failed to attract major European operators, and Ministers had held a heated debate over whether to ask the bidders to improve their offers, to accept one of the existing bids or to abandon the tender altogether.


Opposition parties, the media and trade unions in particular slammed the Advent bid as too low for BTC, whose net profit rose by 43 per cent to E132m in 2001. In addition, according to Reuters, Viva Ventures plans to slash BTC's workforce to 16,000 from approximately 24,800 within three years.


Deals in Central and Eastern Europe are getting larger as countries in the region undertake market reforms intended to harmonize their economies with the West, with the ultimate intention of being incorporated within the expanded European Union.


In November, a consortium of private equity firms, including Dallas-based Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, ARGUS Capital Partners, and the Emerging Markets Partnership Europe Infrastructure Fund, acquired Polish cable company Aster City Cable and the cable operating activities of Elektrim Telekomunikacja, a 51 per cent subsidiary of Vivendi Telecom and a 49 subsidiary of Elektrim, in a E110m buyout.