Air Telecom, a subsidiary of F & N Marketing Group, has reportedly taken control of Czech mobile operator Mobilkom (U:fon), online journal tyden.cz reports. It is understood the new owner paid CZK21 million (USD672,200) for U:fon which was previously in insolvency proceedings and had debts of CZK2 billion. However, as a condition of the purchase U:fon’s liabilities have been wiped out and the insolvency administration ended, allowing Air Telecom to forge ahead with plans to resuscitate the CDMA operator. U:fon’s customers and contracts are not affected by the takeover, with Air Telecom chairman Martin Hes quoted as saying: ‘We bought a healthy company, which also [by dint of its] controlled insolvency could prove its [ongoing] viability. Going forward, we want to mint the philosophy of U:fon and deliver high quality, yet accessible telecommunication services to its customers.’
The new owners intend to launch a range of voice and internet data packages to kick start the operator which has around 100,000 customers to its network. Air Telecom won the tender organised by the cellco’s insolvency administrator, beating a rival offer from Ultranet, a company run by former U:fon CEO Thomas Budnik. U:fon was previously owned by Divenno Cyprus Holdings Limited, operating via another Czech operator Dial Telecom (incl Volny). The Cypriot firm took over from Penta Investments in July 2011 after agreeing a deal to acquire 100% of the company from the private equity group in February that year. It invested around CZK1.5 billion in the venture before throwing in the towel. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database reports that in November 2011 U:fon filed a petition to start insolvency proceedings, laying the blame for its woes squarely at the door of the regulator, the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU), which it claimed repeatedly delayed its competitive entry into the GSM market. At the time, the cellco initiated its own insolvency proceedings in the wake of its failure to adequately redress its poor credit history. During the course of the financial restructuring though, the operator said that services to existing and new customers would remain unaffected. If U:fon is successful in securing Long Term Evolution (LTE) frequencies at the ongoing 4G licence auction, its future could be a little more certain. Last month the CTU announced that the tender for the sale of frequencies for fourth-generation mobile services was being left open for the time being. No reason was given for the regulator’s decision and no new date was set for when the auction of 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz spectrum will end. The outcome of the LTE auction will be determined by the level of ‘further interest of the auction participants in the offered frequencies’, the CTU said.