Estonia’s government has agreed to sell its 27 percent stake in Eesti Telekom – the country’s incumbent mobile and fixed-line operator – to Sweden’s TeliaSonera, reports Associated Press. “The general agreement on the deal has been reached by the government and the proposal will be discussed at the cabinet session on Thursday,” finance ministry spokeswoman Kristi Joesaar told reporters yesterday. TeliaSonera made a EEK5.1 billion (US$482 million) bid for the stake at the end of August. Once finalised, the deal will lift the Swedish firm’s stake in Eesti to 88 percent from around 61 percent currently. Estonia’s decision to sell was reportedly prompted by the deep recession in the Baltic state; its economy is forecast to shrink by 15.3 percent this year.
“The state has no strategic interest in having a holding in one of the telecommunications companies, in fact the holding is at odds with the role of the government as a regulator and supervisor of fair competition,” Finance Minister Jurgen Ligi said in a statement yesterday. According to Wireless Intelligence data, Eesti’s mobile arm – EMT – is the largest mobile operator in Estonia and had 746,000 connections by end of 2Q09. Its competitors include Tele2 (456,000 connections) and Finland’s Elisa (346,000).