SOFIA, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Bulgarian businessman Spas Roussev and Greek Olympia Group together with hedge fund Third Point are bidding for Bulgaria’s largest telecoms operator Vivacom, two sources familiar with the process told Reuters.
VTB Capital, the investment-banking arm of Russia’s second-largest bank VTB launched the sale of the company last month following a default on a 150 million euro ($164 million) loan to an indirect holding company of Vivacom.
VTB Capital will look to recover at least 180 million euros, including taxes and interest, Milen Velchev, head of the Bulgarian office of VTB Capital has said.
The auction is being organised by Ernst & Young in London.
“The auction is ongoing,” said one source who declined to be named. “Olympia and Third Point on one side and Spas Roussev on the other,” the source said.
A second source confirmed the bidders.
Olympia, controlled by Greek businessman Panos Germanos, declined an official comment. Third Point, the vehicle of activist investor Daniel Loeb, said it had no comment. Spas Roussev was not immediately reachable for comment.
The sale is linked to the collapse of the Bulgaria’s fourth largest lender Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank) last year, whose majority shareholder, Tsvetan Vassilev, also controlled 43 percent of Vivacom.
VTB Capital was able to launch the sale process as it is a facility and security agent for a bridge financing loan that was given to InterV, a Luxembourg-based indirect holding company of Vivacom, and on which a payment default occurred in May.
The loan was secured with shares of InterV.
Velchev has said the sale was the only option left as refinancing was not possible, partly because of restrictions imposed by the Bulgarian authorities on the shares of InterV and Vivacom after the collapse of Corpbank.
A source with Bulgaria’s Deposit Insurance Fund, which has paid out over 3.6 billion levs to depositors at Corpbank, told Reuters that the Fund will be looking carefully at the pending sale of Vivacom, as it wants to recover funds.
After a restructuring debt deal in 2012, Tsvetan Vassilev acquired indirect control of 43 percent in Vivacom. VTB Capital held 33 percent and the rest is held by a number of banks and funds, former creditors of the company.
Russian businessman Dmitry Kosarev through his company Empreno Ventures said in a statement he has acquired Vassilev’s stake in Vivacom and plans to dispute the results of the sale of the company.
Vassilev, who was charged with embezzlement and awaits the outcome of extradition hearings in Serbia, said in a statement on his own website that Kosarev has taken control of the shares and accused “political mafia” in Bulgaria of trying to wrest control of his businesses. ($1 = 0.9122 euros) (Reporting By Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia and Alex Winning in Moscow; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)