Bolivia’s leftist government has issued a decree which will return fixed line telco Entel, which is currently controlled by Telecom Italia, back into state control. Government minister Juan Ramon Quintana said President Evo Morales had issued a presidential decree setting a 30-day deadline to negotiate Entel’s return to state hands. Morales, who nationalised the impoverished South American country’s energy industry last year, is a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and, like Chavez, he has vowed to strengthen the state’s role in the economy. A commission of three ministers and two deputy ministers has been charged with leading negotiations to return Entel, which was partially privatised in the mid-1990s, to state control, Quintana said. ‘This commission has until 1 May to finish the negotiation process to return control of the National Telecommunications Company (Entel) to the Bolivian state,’ he said.
Entel is the largest telecommunications company in Bolivia, controlling 80% of the long-distance call market and nearly 70% of the wireless market. In late January, a government minister said Telecom Italia was seeking USD170 million for its 50% stake in Entel. Two private pension funds hold a 47% stake in the firm on behalf of the Bolivian state and the remaining 3% is in the hands of company workers.