The Financial Times has reported that a number of private equity firms are lining up bids for Polkomtel, the Polish mobile phone company in which Vodafone Group is a minority investor. According to the paper, the companies are set to pay EUR4 billion for control of the company, in a sale process which may start next month. Names on the list include Apax Partners, Blackstone, TPG and CVC Capital Partners. It is not the first time that Apax, Blackstone and TPG have been linked with Polkomtel, although at that point it was anticipated that a sale would be completed by the end of August 2010. The majority of Polkomtel shares are currently controlled by four state-owned Polish companies – metals company KGHM, oil company PKN Orlen, electricity infrastructure company PSE, and minerals trader Weglokoks.

The report suggests the companies will get a clear-run, as competition from existing telecoms operators is unlikely. Potential buyers France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom already have mobile businesses in the country, while Telefonica has not been particularly acquisitive in Central Europe. Orascom Telecom head Naguib Sawiris had also expressed an interest, but Orascom’s attention is now likely to be focused on a long-anticipated alliance with Vimpelcom. SK Telecom and Korea Telecom have also been suggested as joint buyers in the past. Vodafone Group had, for many years, expressed an interest in increasing its stake, but as time passed this interested waned, with the company now believed to be eyeing the disposal of its minority holdings to appease its minority shareholders. While it is possible that Vodafone will look to retain its stake when the new owners move in, it is also likely to accept a fair offer for its holding. According to Wireless Intelligence, Polkomtel is Poland’s second-largest operator with 13.7 million connections.