April 16, 2013 / 12:50 PM / 5 years ago

Kosovo approves sale of state telecom company

PRISTINA, April 16 (Reuters) - Kosovo’s government approved the sale of its state telecom company on Tuesday and gave the German-U.S. buyers four months to pay the 227 million euros ($297 million) they offered for 75 percent of the country’s most profitable enterprise.

A consortium of Germany’s ACP Axos Capital Gmbh and U.S.-based investor Najafi Companies was confirmed last week as the highest bidder for PTK, in partnership with the UK’s BT Group.

BT said its role was limited to providing advice and it had no equity in the bid.

The sale represents a breakthrough in Kosovo’s struggle to attract foreign investment five years since it declared independence from Serbia.

The country of 1.7 million people, one of the poorest in Europe, suffers from a reputation for deep-rooted graft and organised crime and is still wrestling with ethnic tensions stemming from a 1998-99 war.

“This is a positive signal for other investors that Kosovo is becoming an attractive place for investment, that law and order is working,” Economy Minister Besim Beqaj said at a cabinet meeting.

Beqaj said the sale guaranteed the jobs of PTK’s 2,500 employees for the next three years. The contract will be signed within 60 days and then the new owners have another 60 days to pay the money.

PTK, which competes with a division of Slovenia Telekom, has more than 1 million mobile subscribers, another 100,000 landline customers and provides internet and cable TV services. The sale does not include its postal arm.

The Kosovo government will retain a 25 percent stake in the company for at least another five years.

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