MTel sale attracts Vodafone interest

25 Mar 2003

A number of Europe’s main telcos are lining up bids for Bulgaria’s largest mobile operator MobilTel (MTel ), according to press reports. MTel is currently owned by a consortium comprising Germany’s Bayerische Landesbank, Austrian bank BAWAG/PSK and the financial group Management Trust Holding, which paid EUR1.25 billion to buy the operator from Israeli diamond merchant Lev Leviev in March 2002. However, at the time of purchase the consortium openly stated that it would be looking to offload MTel again ‘in the short term’, and among the companies now said to be mulling a EUR1.5 billion bid for the operator are Vodafone, TeliaSonera and Telekom Austria. MTel claimed 1.7 million users by the end of September 2002, though its market share fell slightly over twelve months, from 78.4% to 76.4%. It has contracted Siemens for the installation of its GPRS infrastructure and the vendor has also said that it is working with MTel to develop a UMTS strategy by 2004. By September 2002 MTel covered 91% of the country and 95% of the population, having invested around BGL300 million in network expansion and upgrades during the first nine months of the year; it is aiming for 100% coverage in 2003. In 2002 the company reported sales of EUR380 million and EBITDA of EUR140 million.