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D Telekom demands €3.5bn from Vivendi project

06 сентября 2007

Deutsche Telekom is demanding €3.5bn ($4.76bn) from a joint venture controlled by France’s Vivendi, claiming it impeded the development of a Polish mobile telephone operator at the centre of a long-running dispute between the two companies.

Vivendi and Deutsche Telekom have been battling it out in courts in Europe and the US over PTC, a mobile network that used to be the market leader in Poland. The pair are locking horns over a 48 per cent stake in PTC.

The French entertainment and telecoms group claims the shareholding belongs to Telco, a joint venture between Vivendi and Elektrim, a Polish conglomerate that declared bankruptcy last month.

However, Deutsche Telekom, whose ownership of a separate 49 per cent stake in PTC is unchallenged, feels its claim to the disputed shares has already been vindicated. It now fully consolidates PTC in its accounts while Vivendi has reduced the balance sheet value of its own investment to zero.

PTC’s operational performance spluttered amid the legal arguments. Now the saga has taken a fresh turn that could yield yet more fees for lawyers.

Through a letter dated August 28 and issued by its T-Mobile Deutschland arm, Deutsche Telekom has demanded €3.5bn in compensation from Telco. A Deutsche Telekom spokesman claimed that the value of PTC had been compromised by Telco’s legal challenges. “We reserve the right to take legal action if our request is ignored,” the spokesman said.

Vivendi, which disclosed the compensation demand in its half-year accounts, said Telco considered the allegations to be “without any merit” and that it intended to fight them.

Two rivals – PTK Centertel, which uses the Orange brand, and Polkomtel – now have more subscribers than PTC.

Much of the blame for its lost pre-eminence lies with the prolonged ownership dispute between Deutsche Telekom, Vivendi and Elektrim, said Michal Marczak, a telecoms analyst with BRE Bank.

“PTC was the innovative market leader, but during the dispute there was a complete inability to make a decision. Meanwhile, Orange and Polkomtel surged ahead,” Mr Marczak said.

However, he said it would be very difficult to apportion the blame. Managers friendly to Vivendi were turfed out of PTC in 2005. Bruno Curis, managing director of Vivendi’s international telecoms arm, said PTC had grown steadily when Vivendi was involved.

PTC has regained some of its swagger recently. For the first half of 2007 it reported a 15 per cent increase in subscribers to 12.5m.

It must now contend with the recent entry of a fourth mobile operator, Play.

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