For several months now, the state-owned Telekom Serbia has been secretly preparing to sell off its strategic assets, the BIRN investigative website reported.
These assets include the most important telecom towers and passive infrastructure business, such as power stations, solar panels and land. A total of 1,827 such towers, of which 995 are in Serbia, 725 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and 107 in Montenegro, are being acquired by British company Actis GP LLP, reported BIRN.
This investment company should get funding from, among others, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s credit institution. The IFC board is to pass a decision on the investment of 75 million US dollars for the purchase of Telekom Srbija’s assets a day after the elections in Serbia, on December 18.
The sale has been prepared since the end of last year and kept away from the public eye.
“Actis participated in a wide auction process launched by the Seller in Q4 2022, and following multiple rounds, was selected as preferred bidder by June 2023, after which Actis entered into an exclusivity agreement and bilateral negotiations with Telekom Srbija,” says the information posted on the International Finance Corporation website on this project, called the Western Balkan Towers. The project was made public on November 16.
In addition to the process of selling Telekom’s strategic assets in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina taking place in secret, the information on the price is also kept confidential.
“The acquisition will be funded by a combination of equity and bank debt. The acquisition price is commercially sensitive and will not be disclosed at this stage,” said the IFC on its website.
Telekom Serbia’s CEO, Vladimir Lucic, told BIRN that the sales process was not secret but that the sale of the telecom towers was decided on in an international tender. Lucic also claims that these are not strategically important assets, but says that all the antenna towers that the company has in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina will be sold.
“The only thing that is secret is the price as it is substantial. We are talking about a large amount of money,” Lucic added.
The IFC, which is part of the World Bank Group, said that the transaction is subject to clearance by all applicable regulatory and competition authorities.
Following the sale, Telekom Serbia will lease the towers under long-term master service agreements and pay Actis for it and has also committed to lease additional Actis towers under a build-to-suit programme.
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