Telekom Austria remains tight-lipped on possible Belarus mobile purchase

Austrian telecoms company Telekom Austria has confirmed press reports it is in talks concerning the possible acquisition of one of Belarus' largest mobile operators, but declined to provide further details. Thomson Financial, citing unnamed sources, reported that the Austrian company's mobile arm Mobilkom has long been in talks for a EUR1billion (USD1.38 billion) takeover of an as yet unnamed mobile operator, rumoured to to be Mobile Digital Communications (MDC, Velcom), which was only last month bought by Cypriot firm Samauwi Brothers (SB) Telecom.

According to TeleGeography's GlobalComms database, the number of mobile subscribers in Belarus stood at 6.28 million at the end of March 2007, a penetration rate of 64.7%, up from 5.95 million and 61.3% at the beginning of the year. There are four players in the market, CDMA operator BelCel, which launched the country's first (analogue NMT) service back in 1993 but which has since migrated to CDMA-450. BelCel is owned by Comstruct International of the Netherlands (CIBBV, 50%), and national PTO Beltelecom (50%). Beltelecom upped its stake from 33% when it bought Infobank (Trustbank's) 17% stake in March 2005. There are also three GSM network operators: MDC (Velcom), which is backed by the Belarusian government (30.9%), SB Telecom of Cyprus (49%), Beltechexport (20%) and Beltelecom (0.1%); MTS Belarus, owned by state-owned company Intercity Communications (51%) and Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) of Russia (49%); and the most recent entrant Belarusian Network of Telecommunications (BeST), another state-owned company backed by Agat (75%) and national PTO Beltelecom (25%).