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Telekom Austria still uncertain if will bid for Telekom Srbija

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Telekom Austria (TELA.VI) is still weighing whether to bid for Serbia’s Telekom Srbija , the Austrian company’s chief executive said on Thursday.

“We will decide by March 21 whether we make an offer or not. We are in the phase of assessing this opportunity and nothing more,” Hannes Ametsreiter told Reuters in an interview.

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Seven companies said they were interested in the 51 percent stake in Serbia’s state-owned fixed line and mobile operator, although France Telecom (FTE.PA) has withdrawn, saying the 1.4 billion-euro reserve price was too high.

A Serbian government official said on Tuesday that America Movil (AMXL.MX) and Turkcell (TCELL.IS) were likely to pull out of the auction, which has already been postponed. Turkcell, however, said on Thursday it was still considering its options.

The other potential bidders are Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE), Vimpelcom (VIP.N) and Weather Investments.

The official said the country may decide not to sell if it did not achieve the minimum price.

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Serbia is one of seven of central and southeastern European countries where Telekom Austria has established a presence.

It launched its own mobile operations in the country in the second half of 2007, Ametsreiter said, and had already gained 14 percent of the market and was profitable on the core earnings level.

Ametsrieter, however, said the company was not pursuing deals in other European countries, and he ruled out a bid for Poland’s Polkomtel.

“There’s only one asset on sale (in Poland)–Polkomtel–and that’s too big,” he said.

Amertsreiter said he would support consolidation in the Austrian mobile market, where four operators compete, although Telekom Austria’s position would bar it from taking over a rival.

“Only three infrastructures makes sense for Austria,” he said. “We could support consolidation but we would not be allowed to take over competitors. We could buy some assets.”

Telkom Austria reported full-year results in line with expectations on Wednesday.


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