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Latvia agrees full sale of LMT to TeliaSonera

15 апреля 2008

The Latvian government has agreed to give TeliaSonera, the Nordic telecommunications group, full ownership of LMT in a transaction expected to value the leading Latvian mobile operator at about €1bn ($1.6bn).

Monday’s decision should end the squabbling over its largest privatisation, which Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the country’s former president, said last month had damaged the country’s reputation among investors.

The government will offer TeliaSonera the 51 per cent of LMT it does not already own in return for the Nordic telecom’s 49 per cent stake in Latvian fixed-line operator Lattelecom and a payment expected to total Lt130m ($293m).

Afterwards, the government plans to sell the 49 per cent stake in Lattelecom by the end of the year, said a spokesman, with the remaining 51 per cent being sold within three years.

Last summer, the previous government signed a memorandum of understanding to swap shares with TeliaSonera, yielding Lt130m for the state, and simultaneously sell the whole of Lattelecom to Blackstone Group for Lt290m, in what would have been the private equity firm’s largest deal in central and eastern Europe.

However, the transaction was cancelled at the start of this year after prime minister Aigars Kalvitis resigned and parties in the ruling coalition used the issue to jockey for influence.

TeliaSonera, the dominant telecom in the Baltic states, afterwards launched a bid to buy both Latvian telecoms for Lt500m but this was rejected by incoming premier Ivars Godmanis on competition grounds.

In spite of the decline in European telecom valuations, the government is now offering TeliaSonera the same price that was on the table last August.

TeliaSonera reacted cautiously, pointing out that further negotiations would be necessary.

The cabinet refused to force Lattelecom to divide its wholesale and retail operations.

The decision to separate the privatisation of LMT from that of Lattelecom is a blow to Blackstone but it will still start as the favourite to buy the fixed-line operator, on which it has already performed due diligence.

Источник: Financial Times

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