Trio vying for former Telenor units

23 Nov 2018

PPF Group has received offers for its Serbian and Montenegrin mobile service provider units, which it purchased from Norway’s Telenor Group earlier this year along with divisions in Hungary and Bulgaria. According to Investitor, a trio of groups with a strong presence in the region have contacted the PPF to express an interest in acquiring the cellcos: Serbian state-backed operator Telekom Srbija; BC Partners – the owners of United Group; and Telekom Austria. PPF Group completed the acquisition of Telenor’s Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) assets in August this year, paying EUR2.8 billion (USD3.3 billion) for the quartet.

Telekom Srbija is looking to position itself as a market leader in the region and acquired local rival Kopernikus earlier this month, whilst a potentially problematic bid for Albanian provider Telekom Albania is still under consideration. A takeover by Telekom Srbija would likely run into difficulty securing approval from anti-trust watchdogs, however: the operator already has a presence in both countries – MTS in Serbia and m:tel in Montenegro – and the consolidation of the respective Telenor units would narrow competition in each nation to a duopoly, with the enlarged entity controlling more than two-thirds of the space. United Group would pose less of an issue for regulators, as whilst the company is present in both nations (via Serbia Broadband [SBB] and Telemach) it does not have a mobile service offering in either. Finally, Telekom Austria controls the smallest of Serbia’s three cellcos – Mobilkom Serbia (VIP Mobile) – but is yet to establish a foothold in Montenegro. Its other holdings in the region, meanwhile, include divisions in Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Macedonia.