Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Not a chance, half-mommy!

The news agency BNS reports Latvian prime minister Aigars Kalvitis as saying that "nothing has moved forward" in talks between TeliaSonera (the 49 % half-mother of Lattelekom and a 60 % indirect owner of Latvian Mobile Telephone/LMT) concerning the purchase of the remaining stakes in these Latvian assets.
BNS has it slightly wrong, a colleague who was there says Kalvitis merely said he thought nothing had happened and was waiting for Minister of Economics Aigars Stokenbergs to report when he gets back from accompanying the president on a visit to Finland. But the essence of what Kalvitis meant is true -- almost a year has passed and the only clear statements have been to the effect that Latvia will NEVER sell Lattelekom to TeliaSonera, no matter what arguments one makes about the far better viability of a company that combines fixed and mobile services. Lattelekom, at the end of the day, if this government has its way, will be effectively nationalized and put on the shelf waiting for a buyer. Its top management may then leave, plans for expanding the fixed network company into a broadband, IT, voice and data networks services provider and a major business process nearshore/outsourcing company will stagnate and the state will find itself owning an unsellable stranded asset. That, I am afraid, is the gameplan in a worst case scenario.
I still believe that TDC, who I have seen as a potential buyer, will retreat rather than advance in the Baltics. A sell off of the Bite assets may be premature, but analysts expect it to happen.
So there is no white knight out there for Lattelekom.

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