VIENNA, July 12 Telekom Austria is on
the lookout for takeovers in Croatia and Serbia that could make
it the leading player in the Balkans, its chief executive told a
newspaper, declining to rule out a capital increase.
"I think we have the chance to be the biggest player in
southeast Europe and also the most integrated provider in the
region," Hannes Ametsreiter told WirtschaftsBlatt in an
interview published on Friday.
Buying cable operators and satellite companies has let it
offer bundled packages of service that tend to lock in
customers, he said, adding: "That is a growth opportunity that
others do not have."
He said Croatia's H1 Telekom and Serbia's SBB cable outfit
were both interesting assets. Smaller deals could be financed
from cash, but larger ones might need a capital increase, he
said. "This is not an issue at the moment, but it cannot be
He declined to discuss the financial impact of Austria's
auction of mobile frequencies later this year, but after two
bond issues this year worth 900 million euros ($1.17 billion) he
said the group was "very well financed."
Ametsreiter said competition in the Austrian mobile market -
where it competes with Hutchison Whampoa and Deutsche
Telekom - was still "hard as bone", and he took a
swipe at the European Commission's attack on roaming fees.
He said this was weakening every European telecom provider
and that he hoped Europe could learn from the United States,
where regulation was lighter and investments at record highs.
"If the fixed-line segment in Europe were less strongly
regulated it would trigger up to 100 billion euros in
investment. It would cost governments nothing but bring a lot.
Why they don't do that is a mystery to me," he said.
($1 = 0.7668 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by David Cowell)