Slovenia’s Economy Ministry said yesterday that two bidders remained in the race for a 49.13% stake of incumbent telco Telekom Slovenije, after Deutsche Telekom’s Hungarian subsidiary Magyar Telekom was excluded from the auction, reports Reuters. The two remaining suitors are Skipti (owner of Icelandic incumbent telco Siminn), and a three-way partnership of US equity house Bain Capital (which has branches in Europe and Asia), Germany’s Axos Capital and the Slovenian unit of BT Global Services, a division of the UK’s BT Group. The state privatisation committee is expected to choose a winner by the end of the month. ‘Two bidders have substantially improved their offers,’ Matjaz Jansa, head of the Electronic Communications Directorate of the Economy Ministry, told a news conference, adding that Magyar Telekom’s bid had not improved enough. ‘Over the following days the committee will study the offers in detail, possibly ask for additional explanations from bidders…following that we expect to choose one bidder with whom we will continue negotiations and reach a decision in January,’ said Jansa. He added that one of the two bidders still in contention has offered cross-ownership with Telekom Slovenije while the other proposed a two-step purchase. Skipti previously told local media that it was offering cross-ownership with Telekom Slovenije, believing this would make the offer more appealing to the government, which said in March 2007 it would seek a partner who would welcome such an arrangement at the telco. It also said it plans to keep a 25% share in Telekom to retain influence on key decisions. Including state funds, the government controls around 74% of Telekom, which, according to Reuters, is Slovenia’s second-largest listed company, with a market capitalisation of around EUR2.5 billion (USD3.72 billion).