Riga approves share swap in two telcos

15 Apr 2008

Latvia’s government has approved a complex share swap worth over USD1 billion in two telecoms companies. The deal will leave the Latvian government with 100% ownership of Lattelecom, the country’s dominant fixed-line provider, while TeliaSonera will become 100% owner of Latvijas Mobilais Telefons (LMT), the country’s largest wireless network operator. As it stands TeliaSonera owns 49% stakes in Lattelecom and LMT, while the government owns 51% of Lattelecom and 28% of LMT; the remaining 23% stake in LMT belongs to Lattelecom. The government is expected to finalise details of he deal today and then wait for a response from TeliaSonera. If the Scandinavian group gives the green light, the state privatisation agency will draft documentation for the complex string of deals necessary for the swap. The government hopes to net LVL270 million (USD628 million) from the swap, which could take to the end of 2008 to complete. A government spokesperson was reported by the International Herald Tribune as saying that it would contact the US-based private equity group Blackstone Group as a possible investor in a 49% stake in Lattelecom, which the government intends to sell as soon as it takes control from TeliaSonera. Blackstone expressed an interest in purchasing a stake in the company last year, agreeing to finance a management buyout of the company, an option which the government eventually declined.