May date set for Albtelecom sale

16 Mar 2007

May 2007 has been set by the Albanian government as the new deadline for the Turkish company Calik Enerji to fulfil regulatory requirements in regard to the privatisation of fixed line telco Albtelecom. According to an unidentified source within the Albanian negotiating team, Calik Enerji is expected to find a strategic partner, one with experience of the telecoms markets, before it will be allowed to complete the purchase. Calik Enerji initially said it had formed such an arrangement with Turk Telecom, but has thus far not managed to provide documents verifying such an agreement.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, the Albanian government has been attempting to privatise Albtelecom for more than nine years, having first announced plans to sell a stake to a strategic investor in 1998. Tangible progress was slow, however, with the sale being postponed a number of times for various reasons including the outbreak of hostilities in nearby Kosovo and the crash of the global telecoms market. In July 2004 the process was launched once more, with the state revealing plans to sell a 76% stake to qualified international investors, with additional small stakes set aside for national postal company Albpost, and Albtelecom staff. To make Albtelecom more attractive, the state awarded it a GSM wireless licence in early 2004, which it holds via wholly owned subsidiary Eagle.

According to the terms of the international tender, eligible bidders (deemed – amongst other things – as those with a net worth of at least USD300 million) were required to submit an expression of interest to the Ministry of Economy by 3 December 2004. The ministry claimed six parties – reportedly from Slovenia, South Korea, the US, Kuwait and Ireland – bought copies of the sale documents, but only one actually made a formal proposal. In June 2005 the winner was announced as the Calik Eneriji Telekom consortium, a joint venture between Turkish power utility company Calik Eneriji, the EBRD, the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank and the American Bank of Albania. Turk Telekom was signed up to run the company under a management agreement. Calik Enerji bid EUR120 million for the 76% stake and the deal was expected to be completed and approved by the Albanian parliament in July 2005, but following the country’s general election and the subsequent change in government, in October the new Barisha administration refused to ratify the sale, claiming that it was not in the best interest of the country. Instead it hired an international consultant, Deloitte Czech Republic, to review the agreement and the tender proceedure.

In September 2006 The International Herald Tribune reported that Albania was planning to renegotiate the privatisation with the Calik consortium. According to Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Ahmet Calik, the Turkish company’s main shareholder, had expressed ‘a clear will to renegotiate.’ By the start of 2007 Berisha was reported by the Turkish press as being under pressure to complete the deal with Calik.

Albania, ALBtelecom