Lazard sole bidder to advise Serbian telecom sale

BELGRADE: The financial advisory firm Lazard Freres SAS was the only bidder in a tender to advice on the sale of Serbia’s state operated Telekom Srbija, the telecom provider said on Friday.

Telekom Srbija is potentially the most lucrative of hundreds of state enterprises, many of them loss-making, that the Balkan country of 7.3 million people wants to offload to shrink the public sector and stabilise its finances.

The last attempt to sell the terrestrial, mobile telephony and internet operator failed in 2011 after the government rejected as too low an offer of 1.1 billion euros from Telekom Austria for a 51-percent share in the company.

In 2012, Greece’s OTE sold back a 20-percent stake in the company to the Serbian government for 380 million euros.

Under the provisions of the tender, the privatisation advisor will help set the price and the size of the stake that the state will put up for sale and later help Serbia complete the sale.

In a statement, Telekom Srbija said it would respond to Lazard’s bid within the timeframe prescribed by law, without elaborating.

The Serbian government is Telekom Srbija’s single biggest shareholder with a 58.11 percent stake. Small shareholders and employees hold 14.95 percent and 6.94 respectively and the remainder is held by the company itself.

Telekom Srbija posted a 36 percent rise in net profit to 15.3 billion dinars ($139.5 million) in 2013. It is also a majority stakeholder in Bosnia’s second-largest telecom operator Telekom Srpske and controls Montenegrin mobile operator M:Tel. ($1 = 0.9206 euros)