Saturday, February 26, 2005

At least two applicants for Latvia's auction pre-select

There are at least two applicants who filed for preselection for the March 31 auction of Latvia's third UMTS/GSM mobile operator licence. They are Danish TDC's Lithuanian subsidiary Bite GSM and a consortium consisting of telecoms entrepreneur Peteris Smidre's Alina and MVC Capital Inc., a US business development fund that last year invested USD 10.5 million into a Latvian car dealership. MVC started out as a dotcom era venture capital fund that almost burned out, but is now recovering under new top management and making relatively conservative investments in food processing, manufacturing, agricultural equipment and finance.
A big surprise was that the mysterious International Telecommunications & Technologies (IT&T) pulled out at the last minute, leaving its local representative, Edgars Zakrizevskis, fuming that he had wasted a year of his time and effort paving the way for the virtually unknown, partly Lebanese-based consortium. Zakrizevskis thinks the last minute retreat could have had something to do with the car bomb assassination of former Lebanese prime minister and billionaire Rafik Hariri. Another theory is that the whole IT&T thing was a scam to begin with. This blogger raised the scam issue early on, but then backpedaled a bit when it seemed there were real people behind IT&T. But then most con-men are real.
Guntis Macs, the high Ministry of Transport official who heads the auction commission hinted that there might be some other applicants not mentioned in the press previously. He is not at liberty to say anything to the press except that that applications have been filed, but not their number.
One "dark horse" could be China-based Huawei, who is advertising for an office manager in Latvia. Previously they have denied having anything going in Latvia. Huawei was also mentioned as a possible partner for IT&T. Perhaps they have joined with another unknown participant. Mainly a builder of infrastructure and telecoms equipment, Huawei is a rising star mentioned, for example, in Business Week in the same breath as Cisco.
The next critical date is around March 14 or perhaps March 22, when the names of those who have passed pre-selection involving a check of their business and investment plans by international auditors are announced.

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