Tirana opposed to Telekom Srbija bid; Belgrade not ruled out privatisation

8 Oct 2018

Telekom Srbija’s bid to purchase Telekom Albania is facing resistance from the Albanian government, Top Chanel TV reports, citing unnamed government sources. According to the sources, representatives from Telkom Srbija were informed that the company’s introduction into an Albanian market of such strategic importance was ‘not welcome,’ as it would have political ramifications. The sources explained that ‘the Albanian government prefers another profile of investors in this important strategic sector with high public sensitivity,’ adding that the state was ‘fully prepared’ to welcome Serbian investment in other sectors. The officials stressed, however, that the government has little capacity to block a sale should the two firms reach an agreement, as Tirana has no ownership rights over Telekom Albania. In terms of regulatory oversight of such a deal, the competition and telecommunications authorities in Albania are empowered to intervene, but are considered unlikely to do so. According to the government sources, the agencies have little justification to intervene in the transaction.

In a related development, meanwhile, Serbian trade and telecommunications minister Rasim Ljajic said in an interview with Radio Free Europe last week that Telekom Srbija’s bid for Telekom Albania does not mean that the government has given up on its effort to privatise the telco. A decision on that matter had not been made, the minister explained, noting that the acquisition of the Albanian cellco would drive up the value of Telekom Srbija, should the government revisit privatisation: attempts to sell a majority stake in the company in 2011 and 2015 both failed after bids submitted for the telco were deemed too low.