Telekom Austria is contemplating a share swap deal with Serbian cellular operator Mobtel in order to buy out a consortium of Austrian investors, according to reports in the Austrian publication Die Presse. The Telekom Austria board has apparently approved the manoeuvre which will see the telco or its mobile arm Mobilkom buy the Serbian state’s holding in Mobtel, and then move to buy out the Schlaff consortium’s holding in the company through a formal share offer. Mobtel’s value for the purposes of the share swap is around EUR1 billion, making the consortium’s holding worth around EUR500 million.
Mobtel’s future has been the focus of intense speculation of late. On 20 May the Serbian government said it was prepared to wait for a court decision before deciding on the future of its stake in the country’s second largest cellular operator. The International Arbitration Court in Zurich is currently examining the ownership structure of the cellco. The state initially had a 49% interest in Mobtel when it was founded in 1995, with the investment company BK Trade taking the controlling stake. Problems arose, however, when the state made investments in the operator which it claimed were not matched by the other shareholder, and the government says it is now entitled to an enlarged stake. A recent study said the state should be given around 58%, but according to a report from Telecompaper, Serbia’s finance minister Mladjan Dinkic is happy to wait for the outcome of the Arbitration Court’s investigation before considering a sell-off as it may award the government a higher percentage.