May 23, 2012 / 10:55 AM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 3-Telekom Austria investor Pecik happy to stay put

* Shareholder Pecik says no plans for big change in stake

* Pecik gets seat on Telekom supervisory board, Sawiris drops out

By Angelika Gruber and Michael Shields

VIENNA, May 23 (Reuters) - Telekom Austria AG shareholder Ronny Pecik won a supervisory board seat after declaring he was content with his 21 percent stake and insisting he was a loyal investor rather than the “locust” that media make him out to be.

Pecik dismissed reports he was keen to build up and flip the stake he built with ally Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris, who dropped out of the running for his own board seat at the last minute on Wednesday.

Speculation has focused on Norway’s Telenor and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim as potential buyers of the stake in Telekom Austria, which has around 23 million customers in eight countries in central and eastern Europe.

“You see me as an incredible patriot. That’s what I am,” Pecik told fellow shareholders, tracing his career from the son of Croatian guest workers to wealth and power as an Austrian entrepreneur who has left his mark on half a dozen companies.

“The media like to see me as a locust. I would prefer to be a butterfly. That is more colourful,” he said.

Some shareholders asked sceptical questions about what Pecik planned for the company, but the meeting elected him to an extra seat on the supervisory board with over 73 percent in favour.

Pecik, 50, said Sawiris had pulled his candidacy for a board seat because his business acumen was sorely needed in Egypt as the country elects a new president and adopts sweeping reforms.

Asked whether Sawiris would seek later to join the board, Pecik said: “He has to decide. His country needs him.”

He rejected speculation that the abrupt turn of events reflected a falling out between the partners who have spent 800 million euros ($1.01 billion) to build their stake.


Pecik described Telekom Austria as an undervalued pearl of industry despite a wave of corruption scandals - which erupted after he started building his stake - that has cost the group millions and tarnished its image.

Shareholders heard a report from outside monitors on Wednesday about a litany of irregularities linked to consultants, acquisitions, property deals and bonus schemes. The company is seeking to claw back 29 million euros related to these matters.

Pecik has made a fortune by building stakes with partners in companies such as Oerlikon, Sulzer, Saurer, Ascom and VA Tech before selling on at a profit.

But he distanced himself from reports that he was applying this strategy to the Telekom Austria stake.

“I am not spreading these wild rumours,” he told reporters before the meeting began, adding: “I always said from the beginning that I would like to stay a shareholder.”

Slim’s America Movil is on the hunt in Europe and has offered around $3.5 billion to boost its stake in Dutch telecoms company KPN NV to as much as 28 percent.

Pecik said he would refrain from pushing for a change in top management at the group, saying he wanted first to get a clear picture of the situation and would not “overnight” demand that Chief Executive Hannes Ametsreiter and finance chief Hans Tschuden be replaced, he told reporters.

He told the meeting he wanted to ensure the company had enough management capacity to run the group effectively, which could mean adding a third and possibly fourth top executive.

The telecoms company said in January that Pecik and Sawiris had built a stake of just over 20 percent via shares and call options. Austrian state holding company OeIAG is Telekom’s biggest investor, with a 28.4 percent stake.

Sawiris, who has also applied for a Telekom Austria board seat, is one of Egypt’s richest men. He built his fortune in the mobile phone business and is now a liberal politician.

Telekom Austria shares closed down 2.2 percent at 7.737 euros, while the Stoxx European telecoms sector index shed 2 percent.

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