Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Latvia affirms, yet again, it will someday privatize Lattelecom and LMT

This is beginning to remind me of a black humor headline from way back, when popes were dying frequently -- "Pope dies yet again".
Well, Latvia's Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and not-too-swift Minister of Economics Artis Kampars (he just offered to buy Russian gas at winter premium prices) said, yes, we want to sell off the state shares in Lattelecom and Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT). Latvian governments have been saying this since the late 1990s and "jack shit" has happened. I think that "jack shit" will happen again in 2011. An earlier Latvian government passed up a chance to sell the state stake in both companies for around 500 million USD (?) back in what the Latvians call the "fat years." Now the government keeps muttering that they don't want to sell to "the Swedes" because that would create a monopoly.
This is horseshit. There is competition on voice telephony with most people in Latvia using mobiles, and fixed domestic voice is no longer tariffed if you buy a package deal -- phone plus internet (optical 100 Mbps or more) and TV. On the cable TV market there is competition and in fast internet as well -- both Baltkom and Izzi offer 100 Mbps on different technologies. The problem is that Latvia cannot politically unfuck itself and get on with getting the government out of telecoms. It also has to realize that there isn't exactly a queue around the block waiting to buy the 51 % stakes in both operators. TeliaSonera is probably it, unless you want to sell to some bizarre, sleazy Russian consortium.
And so the never ending story continues. That is my piece of cynicism to round out the year.

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