Advent tops bidding for BTC

Advent International is one of two remaining bidders for BTC, the Bulgarian state telecom company being privatised by the national government.

Global private equity house Advent International has submitted a formal offer in the auction to acquire BTC, the telecoms business currently being privatised by the Bulgarian government.

Advent is one of two groups which submitted bids for BTC prior to today’s deadline. The other group comprises Turkish firms Koc Holding and Turk Telekom, which announced a combined bid for the business. Advent, which has a long history of telecom investments, has teamed up with Polish private equity firm Enterprise Investors for the auction, forming a wholly-owned vehicle called Viva Ventures.

Viva Ventures is understood to have tabled the higher offer for BTC, valuing the firm at E250m. The government has asked the bidders to pledge at least a further E450m in investment by end-2006 to raise BTC network's digitalisation from its current level of 17 per cent.

Advent was one of several firms looking at BTC earlier in the year. Emerging markets investor Charlemagne Capital expressed an interest prior to the first deadline for offers, originally scheduled for late May. Initial cash bids for the 65 per cent stake in the company which the Bulgarian government put up for sale in June had valued the business between E100m and E250m.

The government has struggled to attract bidders for the sale, the first in a raft of privatisations proposed by the Balkan state as it seeks closer ties with the European Union. The relative lack of interest is a far cry from the telecoms boom of 2000, when the previous Bulgarian government rejected a bid of $610m from Greek telecoms firm OTE and Dutch KPN for a 51 per cent stake in BTC, including a GSM licence.

Deutsche Bank is advising the Bulgarian government on the sale. A preferred bidder is expected to be announced in early October.