Telia backs Latvia telecoms consolidation, eyes full ownership

STOCKHOLM Fri Aug 9, 2013 10:10am EDT

A workman prepares to install a sign with TeliaSonera's new corporate logo, outside a store in downtown Stockholm May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Bob Strong

A workman prepares to install a sign with TeliaSonera's new corporate logo, outside a store in downtown Stockholm May 12, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Bob Strong

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Nordic telecoms group TeliaSonera (TLSN.ST) said on Thursday it backed plans by Latvia to consider a merger between fixed-line and mobile telecom operators and remained keen to raise its stake in the companies.

Latvia said on Thursday it was considering a merger of fixed line network operator Lattelecom with mobile operator Latvijas Mobilais Telefons (LMT) following a media report that said the government might be preparing for a sale of its remaining stakes in the two companies.

Kennet Radne, head of Baltics mobility services for TeliaSonera, said on Friday the company would like to strengthen its market position in Latvia to make the most of good growth potential.

"We believe there are synergies between these companies," he told Reuters, saying that from a customer perspective, the lines between fixed and mobile services were often blurred. "We believe there are opportunities to get these companies to work closer together."

A bid by TeliaSonera in 2008 for full ownership in the companies was rejected by the government on grounds it could harm competition.

Radne said buying the rest of the companies remained a possible long-term goal.

"We are interested in increasing our ownership in these companies," he said.

Latvia said on Thursday a privatization of the companies was not being discussed.

Latvia owns 51 percent of Lattelecom with TeliaSonera holding the remaining 49 percent. Lattelecom in turn has a 23 percent stake in LMT.

TeliaSonera controls 60.3 percent of LMT through direct and indirect stakes with the state owning the remainder.

(Reporting by Mia Shanley; Editing by David Cowell)

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