Serbia’s government today revealed it received eight non binding offers for its 58 per cent stake in the country’s largest operator, Telekom Srbija.
The government confirmed last week it was in the process of assessing preliminary bids and would announce which companies had progressed to the next stage of negotiations after 17 August.
Rasim Ljajic, the country’s trade, tourism and telecoms ministry, said in a statement today the state had yet to decide “whether all eight bids will be on the final list”.
A lot will depend on whether the companies in question have met the country’s bidding criteria.
When putting the stake up for sale, Serbia’s privatisation agency stated only companies with assets of at least €2 billion or reported revenues of at least €500 million will be able to participate in the process.
Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic also weighed in, reportedly stating in a news conference the government expects a “significantly higher offer” than the failed €1.1 billion bid it received from Telekom Austria in 2011 for a 51 per cent stake.
“If we don’t get that, we will not sell,” he said.
Telekom Austria was again rumoured to be interested in the acquisition this time round, along with fellow European operator Deutsche Telekom, but both companies have now pulled out of the race according to Serbian daily Vecernje Novosti.
Telekom Slovenije, which was embroiled in takeover talks with private equity firm Cinven for months before the deal fell through, is however among those interested in the Serbian operator, according to the publication.
A Reuters source claimed last week there were more bids on the table from investment funds than operators, with at least four US companies expressing an interest.
Telekom Srbija owns a majority stake in Bosnia’s Telekom Srpske, and also controls Montenegro’s M:Tel.
According to GSMA Intelligence, the company has more than 4.7 million connections, with Serbia set to hit more than 10.3 million total connections by the end of this year.