Telekom Austria Group’s shareholders voted on Wednesday to elect major investor Ronny Pecik to the company’s supervisory board with a 73% majority. However, his co-investor, Naguib Sawiris, withdrew his candidacy for a board seat at the last minute, with Pecik citing the Egyptian billionaire’s other business commitments as a stumbling block. Recent months have seen the duo build up a 20.118% stake in the pan-European telecoms group through Pecik’s RPR Privatstiftung investment vehicle. Following his election to the enlarged nine-man board, Pecik indicated that he would refrain from raising or lowering his stake, whilst also denying that he intended to push for a change in the group’s top management. He told reporters: ‘Together with my financial partner, I stand behind the company, behind its development and say that the company, which is part of Austria’s history and landscape, has to move forward’.
In related news, Sawiris denied Austrian press reports suggesting that Carlos Slim’s America Movil group had approached him and Pecik regarding their stake in Telekom Austria. In an initial telephone interview with Bloomberg, the Egyptian admitted: ‘My understanding is that Slim approached the Austrian state. He didn’t approach us’. Indeed, Slim’s representatives are understood to have had held initial talks with Telekom’s two largest stakeholders, Austrian government holding company OIAG (28.42%) and Pecik’s RPR Privatstiftung.
Sawiris has, however, refused to rule out a future deal with Mexican tycoon Slim, effectively contradicting the aforementioned statement by Pecik. When quizzed on his future plans by Bloomberg TV, he admitted that he would be willing to offload his interest in Telekom Austria if the state does not give him and Pecik free rein to streamline the company. Asked why he was interested in a company that was overstaffed and needed cost cuts, Sawiris said: ‘That is exactly why I went in, because then there is a lot of savings, there is a lot of upside … If it happens we are staying and we are going to increase our stake … It depends on the government, if the government is not going to allow us to manage the company the way we want then it becomes unattractive for us. I am an industrialist. I didn’t do this deal to go in and buy and sell shares. The best scenario would have been [Slim] buys [OIAG] out and then me and him [run] the company. That would be great.’