Friday, January 11, 2008

A half-mother forever?

The latest twist in the Lattelecom saga that I can discern from where I am -- vacationing in Orlando, Florida-- is that the government of Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis wants to keep the state's 51 % share of Lattelecom and let TeliaSonera do as it pleases with its 49 % -- preferably sell it.
What this means is that the Latvian government -- seriously -- is telling the Swedes to find someone to pay for sharing a bed with a proven capricious majority owner. Under Latvian law, the government has the right of first refusal, which takes us back to the situation before the MBO proposal, when TeliaSonera offered, in effect, to let Lattelecom be nationalized in return for getting 100 % of Latvian Mobile Telephone and even paying cash to the government. 
Latvia has a new goverment, but the muddling, bumbling and equivocating on the privatization of Lattelecom has not stopped. 
Is there a serious private investor -- a mutual fund, whatever-- never mind a telecoms operator, who would share owning and running a fixed-network only company with this kind of co-owner? Unlikely.  You have something that looks very much like a stranded investment, TeliaSonera

1 comment:

Roy Cochrane said...

It may be very naive of me to suggest it, but I wonder if the time has come for the protagonists in this eternal soap opera to set aside their posturings for the greater good of the Latvian economy.
I recall that when the then Lattelekom was partially privatised way back in 1994 one of the stated objectives was that a strong, dynamic, focused and modernised communications company was an essential pre-requisite for the development of a services economy in Latvia. This objective is more relevant to Latvia today than ever but I suspect that the communications companies - and governments - of neighbouring (and competing) states must be very happy with the continued impasse surrounding the future ownership and strategic direction of Lattelecom.