Sunday, March 09, 2008

A week or more of indecision ahead on Lattelecom

On March 12, a Latvian government working group will hear the half-mother TeliaSonera's arguments, yet again, for buying the remaining government stakes in Lattelecom (51 %)  and LMT (28 %, depending how you calculate it) for a mere 500 million LVL (the price, at least, of a nice bridge*). This will concern the augmented offer which includes a promise to split Lattelecom into wholesale and retail units , plus to place some of TeliaSonera's R&D in Latvia. 
Presenting the case will be the Swedish Sisyphus (the legendary Greek dude condemned to rolling this huge rock up a hill repeatedly, only to have it roll back again) Kenneth Karlberg TeliaSonera's head of Mobility.  Kenneth knows the routine, he will still know it when he retires in 15 years and hands off the task of dealing with the indecisive Latvians to his succesor. 
Whatever the working group recommends (I suspect it will be a) nothing or b) send them svenssons to hell) will then be presented to the government (the Cabinet of Ministers) for their March 18 meeting. I would bet a modest amount that the government, too, will table this (do nothing) or, unremarkably, reject the Swedes yet again.
I was just reading in the latest WIRED magazine that autism may not be a disease but simply a different way that people's brains are put together (i.e. to prefer mumbling, head banging and deriving multi-digit prime numbers instantly to what we consider normal). Anyway, the majority way of wiring brains is called neurotypical (i.e. the way most people are).
Why do I bring this up? I think the reason that Kenneth Sisyphus Karlberg isn't getting anywhere, and that Nils Melngailis has been hounded (by non-barking hounds) from the post of CEO, along with The Blackstone Group being shown the door, is that the Latvian government is not neurotypical. Whatever and however these people think, is not of this planet and may involve bizarre combinations and assumptions.
Like autistic folks, they have not responded (so I am told) to any written communications (although many real autistics prefer, if they are able, to write rather than speak). The government may well be seeing(behind TeliaSonera's offer) some kind of non-obvious threat, or it may have its own scheme of what to do with Lattelecom in mind, perhaps with regard to hidden local interests. That could involve running the company into the ground in order to "get" it on the cheap, but then again, what, exactly, would one get? Maybe a barely profitable fixed network operator with 500 000 customers ( 120 000 lost in coming years to mobile for fixed substitution). It takes non-neurotypical thinking to understand what is going on.
It should be an interesting, though in many ways predictable 10 days ahead. I hope I am wrong, but hope is the last to fade, isn't it? :)

*the so-called Southern Bridge now being built across the Daugava, the river that bisects Riga, is estimate to cost around LVL 500 million, by my reckoning, the same or more in present day dollars than the huge Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York, which was the costliest bridge in the US at USD 320 million when finished in 1964.

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