BTC ready to embrace Advent of privatisation

9 Jan 2003

London-based private equity firm Advent was yesterday approved as the preferred buyer for Bulgaria’s BTC by the country’s Supreme Court, ending a legal challenge brought last month. The chief prosecutor’s office had petitioned the court to declare invalid the planned sale of a 65% stake in BTC to Advent for EUR200 million (USD208 million), claiming that the latter’s acquisition vehicle – Viva Ventures – had not been properly registered and as a result the disposal failed to meet legal requirements. The request brought the long-drawn out privatisation process to a standstill, but the court ruling, which could still be challenged, should leave the way clear for the completion of the sell-off. Advent was selected by Bulgaria’s Privatisation Agency as the preferred buyer for the shares over a bidding consortium headed by Turkey’s Koc Holding; the UK equity house has already revealed plans to cut BTC’s workforce to 16,000 in three years, from its current level of 24,800, and has committed itself to investing a minimum of EUR400 million within five years. Opponents of the sale claim that the purchase price and proposed levels of investment are too low, while the job cuts go too far. The government is keen to close the deal, however, as the funds raised will provide a much needed boost to state coffers.