ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turk Telekom (TTKOM.IS) offered on Wednesday to buy the remaining $300 million stake it doesn’t already own in mobile company Avea, a deal that would allow it to avoid having to float the struggling wireless firm.
Saudi-owned Turk Telekom, which also reported a 93 percent drop in quarterly earnings, owns 90 percent of Turkey’s third-largest mobile company, with the remainder held by lender IS Bank (ISCTR.IS) and other investors.
Under a 2006 shareholder agreement, IS Bank retains the right to demand an initial public offering this year, a flotation that would likely be hampered by Avea’s weak earnings, analysts said.
“Even if Avea is advancing towards profitability, right now it is still not profitable,” said Toygun Onaran, an analyst at TEB Invest. “It is logical for IS Bank to want to offload the shares.”
Turk Telekom did not say how much it would pay for the Avea stake, which it said had a “nominal value” of 820 million lira ($300 million). That would value the company at $3 billion. That’s a “very high” valuation, Onaran said, adding he estimated Avea was worth around 40 percent of that.
Like many telephone companies, Turk Telekom faces a gradual decline in demand for fixed-line services, meaning the performance of its mobile arm is critical.
Turk Telekom’s majority shareholder, Saudi Oger, faces a similar fight in South Africa, where it owns struggling mobile company Cell C [SAOGRC.UL], which is also third-ranked in a competitive market.
The fixed-line company reported a big fall in first- quarter net profit, hit by higher capital spending and the sharp decline in the Turkish lira TRYTOM=D3. It has overseas operations and most of its currency exposure come from financial liabilities and trade payables, it said.
Turk Telekom said it was “continuing to evaluate” participation in a tender for 4G frequencies, the bids for which are due on May 26.
The future of that tender was thrown into doubt this week, when President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey should wait and then jump straight to 5G.
($1 = 2.6872 liras)
Additional reporting by Can Sezer and Daren Butler; writing by David Dolan