Tuesday, March 11, 2008

No decision on Lattelecom privatization

As predicted in this blog, the Latvian government failed on March 11 to take any decision on the privatization of Lattelecom (and the parallel sale of the state's remaining stake in mobile operator LMT).
However, Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis indicated to journalists that the government had not changed its view that both companies should not be sold to the same buyer -- TeliaSonera. The Swedish telecoms group had said it was willing to modify its offer for both operators and promise to split Lattelecom into  legally separate wholesale and retail entities. This has been done in Sweden with TeliaSonera' s network operator Skanova.
At the same time, the government has effectively rejected two alternative bids -- the proposed management and staff buy-out financed by The Blackstone Group and a bank consortium and a "plan B" whereby Blackstone would buy out TeliaSonera' s 49 % holding in Lattelecom and later bid on the 51 % held by the government.
However, even the plan B bid was based on the continued management of the company by CEO Nils Melngailis and the signing of a management agreement that would have kept the government at arms length from Lattelecom.
Melngailis is definitely leaving the company on April 1, and some of his staff have already moved on. Press secretary Maija Celmina is joining the press staff of President Valdis Zatlers'  office. Agris Tamanis, a key executive at Lattelecom BPO is also said to be leaving his post on April 1.  It appears he will be joining a start-up together with social network draugiem.lv founder Lauris Liberts. It is not 100 % certain that Tamanis departure has anything to do with the failure of the MBO and Melngailis departure, but it could have influenced a choice to work with the start-up full time.  Among Lattelecom middle management there also appears to be a sense of uncertainty as to what will happen with the company and the direction set by Melngailis after April 1.

And now for some weird theories:

1) A seemingly frivolous lawsuit by an unknown, small Latvian company, Time Investments demanding participation in the privatization of Lattelecom (now heading for Latvia's highest appeals court) is rumored to be backed by Ventspils business interests and possible investors from Russia. Claiming to be acting on behalf of unnamed investors, Time Investments is seeking to set aside the rights of first refusal of the current stakeholders in Lattelecom and open the privatization to any and all. 

2) Minister of Transport Ainars Slesers is rumored to have supported the MBO and the Blackstone plan B, having seen the implications of rejecting a global American investor and the benefits of having American investment. In the wake of the "giant" Blackstone, other American investors would come to Latvia. Naturally, Slesers business partners and even the minister himself could benefit (if political conditions change) in a legitimate way. Some American deals could go to Slesers business associates and in the future, there could be deals for a then ex-minister.


Anonymous said...

Juri, sveicieni Tev un Tavam labam paziņam Nilam ! Diemžēl sliktas ziņas - Blackstone iet pa burbuli un prihvatizācijas shēmu mīļiem nāksies meklēt krievu investoru pa tiešo http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/JC12Dj02.html

Anonymous said...

Neizdev�s linku iepost�t, t�p�c m�inu caur tinyURL, links �eit -> http://tinyurl.com/38g9qp

Bleveland said...

Hmmm... Russian investors... and what you said more...? Ventspils... hmmm... does that ring a bell? Let me... uhh...

NO, gone completely.

For a second I thought there was a link to an incident that had something to do with a scholarship or so, but no, that must have been something completely different or in any other case just a coincidence.

Juris Kaža said...

Anonymous writes greetings to me and my good aquaintance Nils (Melngailis). He says the bad news is that Blackstone is going down the tubes and those who favor "grabbing schemes" will have to seek a Russian investor directly.

My answer: While private equity, along with the rest of the financial sector, will take losses, that is far from bankruptcy. There will simply be less activity and Blackstone may be thankful for not having to invest in a small, politically capricious (politiski kaprīzs) market like Latvia.

I am still waiting to hear what the alternatives are to 1) the MBO and Melngailis (that deal is dead)
2) TeliaSonera and LVL 500 million
3) nationalization and doing a deal where TeliaSonera gets 100 % of LMT.