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Cesky Telecom: The Deutsche Bank/TDC consortium will reportedly seek a price reduction

23.9.2002 10:17
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The Czech Euro newsweekly reports today that the Deutsche Bank/TDC consortium that won the Cesky Telecom privatization tender winner will seek a price reduction (EUR 1.82 bil [CZK 54.8 bil.] for the 51% stake, CZK 334 per share) from the state based on the second round of due diligence that is currently under way. The financial results of CTel have reportedly worsened due to market liberalization and management mistakes, e.g., tariff structure. Euro cites sources familiar with the transaction and a high-level company manager.

A National Property Fund spokeswoman, however, said that no such claim has been raised thus far from the buy side; the privatization contract is to be signed at the end of October. Unless the due diligence uncovers something the market does know (which does not seem to be the case so far), the acquisition price issue should have little impact on the stock price.

More importantly, the weekly also said that TelSource, which holds 27% in Cesky Telecom, would probably sell its stake together with the National Property Fund. If the TelSource stake is sold after the stake of the NPF’s (i.e., a 66% ownership threshold would be crossed), this would trigger an obligatory buyout offer. The buyout price would be set by an court-sworn expert, who must take into account the higher of (i) a 6-month price average (currently CZK 291.9 per share), or (ii) the selling price less 15%, which would be CZK 283.9 per share assuming that TelSource’s per-share selling price would equal the per-share privatization price. Nevertheless, we believe it is likely the TelSource deal will be structured so as to avoid a buyout scenario (i.e., TelSource’s stake is sold before the NPF stake, and the buy-out threshold will be crossed by sale of the NPF stake, on which there is a buy-out exception).

Separately, the Czech MFDnes daily reports today that the Finance Ministry is reportedly considering raising the VAT distinction for telecommunication services from 5% to a newly created 12% (or 13%) VAT bracket, and to the uppermost 22% VAT bracket following the Czech Republic’s accession to the EU (exp. 2004). This would have a negative affect on fixed and mobile voice traffic, and would increase the share of SMS revenues (with low tariffs) at the expense of the voice revenues of mobile operators. Nevertheless, the domestic telco stocks will not react, we believe.

Jiri Soustruznik

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