Belgium’s financial regulators have approved plans for a initial public offering (IPO) of former fixed line monopoly operator Belgacom. Rumours of an IPO have been rife since mid-2003 and, despite the state insisting that a share sale was not a priority, Belgacom shareholder ADSB Telecommunications – the international consortium comprising US-based SBC Communications, TDC of Denmark and Singapore Telecom – has been pushing for a flotation since the start of the year. Analysts predict that the IPO would give Belgacom a market value of up to EUR11 billion. Reports suggest that ADSB, which owns 50% minus one share of the PTO, could sell as much as 80% of its holding. Belgacom will begin promoting the IPO on 8 March with a listing amongst institutional investors likely to take place two weeks later.
Belgacom was the monopoly operator in the Belgian fixed line sector until market liberalisation in 1998 when it faced competition for the first time from the likes of Telenet and UPC Belgium. Since then around 300 alternative operators have entered the Belgian market. It offers local, domestic long-distance and international voice services as well as a range of data-based offerings, internet access via its ISP Skynet, and mobile telephony through Belgacom Mobile.
Belgacom is the only debt-free major telco in western Europe and the IPO is likely to prove extremely popular with investors. It reported unaudited revenues of EUR5.454 billion in 2003, up EUR116 million year-on-year, with its mobile and broadband businesses the main sources of growth.