Kosovo extends bidding deadline in state telecom sale

PRISTINA Fri Nov 23, 2012 7:15am EST

PRISTINA Nov 23 (Reuters) - The Kosovo government has given companies hoping to buy the state telecoms operator more time to line up financial backing, the economy ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Five international consortia are bidding to buy 75 percent of Post and Telecom (PTK), Kosovo's most profitable company. A previous sale attempt collapsed last year when corruption charges were filed against a number of senior company officials.

The government said in 2010 it hoped to make 300-600 million euros ($387-773 million) from the sale but has not given a more recent valuation.

The government said bidders now had until Jan. 15 to line up their offers. It had previously said the tender process would end in the second half of November.

"This extension is decided also in the interest of having support from financial institutions, particularly after Kosovo's membership of the EBRD," the Kosovo Ministry for Economic Development said.

Kosovo will become a full member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on Dec. 17.

The ministry said the EBRD and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is part of the World Bank group, have expressed readiness to support the bidders.

"The involvement of such serious institutions in the process ... is an additional guarantee for the success of the project," it said.

The Balkan state, which gained independence from Serbia in 2008, plans to keep its remaining stake in PTK for at least five years. It wants to invest most of the proceeds in new motorways.

The company has more than 1 million mobile subscribers and 100,000 landline customers. It also provides internet and cable TV services. The sale does not include its postal arm.

PTK has paid 35 million euros in dividends to the government so far this year and plans to pay another 10 million euros by the end of December.

The five bidding companies, as listed on the ministry's website, are:

* Albright Capital Management in cooperation with Portugal Telecom

* Columbia Capital USA in consortium with ACP Axos Capital Gmbh, in cooperation with British Telecom Poland, part of BT

* M1 International Ltd, Lebanon

* Turkcell, Turkey

* Twelve Hornbeams, UK (Innova Capital) and Avicenna Capital LLC, UK, in cooperation with Sofrecom which is part of France Telecom