State held secret talks about Slovak Telekom sale

THE GOVERNMENT already has a plan to sell its 49-percent state stake in the telecoms operator Slovak Telekom (ST), after the state secretly signed a memorandum with Deutsche Telekom, the majority owner.

THE GOVERNMENT already has a plan to sell its 49-percent state stake in the telecoms operator Slovak Telekom (ST), after the state secretly signed a memorandum with Deutsche Telekom, the majority owner.

MP Daniel Lipšic, leader of the New Majority (NOVA) party, said that the memorandum of understanding has been signed, but that kept a secret thus far. The Economy Ministry later confirmed it had signed the memorandum, the Sme daily reported in its February 14 issue.

“We call on [Prime Minister] Robert Fico to publish the memorandum,” Lipšic said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “The premier was talking endlessly that he was against privatisation and nothing would be privatised during his government. It appears that besides [state-run railway freight carrier] Cargo, he also wants to complete the privatisation of Slovak Telekom under not very transparent conditions.”

Lipšic added that it may be a subject of a debate whether the completion of privatisation is right or not, but in any case the process must be transparent.

“Secret meetings and secret memorandums indicate that it will not be a transparent privatisation,” Lipšic said, as quoted by TASR.

Economy Ministry spokesman Stanislav Jurikovič said there is no problem with publishing the memorandum, but they need to wait for the approval of Deutsche Telekom, as reported by Sme. He denied there were any secret talks with the German firm.

According to Sme, the plan calls for an external advisor should evaluate the value of the state’s minority share in ST. After the sum is revealed, Deutsche Telekom will decide whether they want to buy it or not. In the case it refuses, Slovakia will offer the shares through London’s stock exchange. The whole process should be finished by the end of this year.

The expected value of the share can be as much as €800 million, but the actual price might be lower due to a fine from the European Commission for disadvantaging its rivals on the market, Sme wrote.

Fico has often referred to the possible sale of the 49-percent stake, indicating that it is not of strategic state interest. Initially, the money was going to go toward buying the private health-insurers in order to have a unitary health-insurance system but that plan is now on hold.

Source: Sme, TASR

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

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