VIENNA, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Telekom Austria is looking at buying a Belarus mobile phone operator for more than 1.6 billion euros ($2.2 billion), Austrian newswire APA reported on Friday, citing financial sources.
The partly state-owned operator is in exclusive talks about the sale, APA reported, and has scheduled a meeting of its supervisory board next month to discuss the purchase. APA said its sources did not disclose the Belarus operator's name.
Telekom Austria declined to comment on the report.
Chief Executive Boris Nemsic told Reuters last month he could spend more than 2.65 billion euros for an asset in central or eastern Europe if the right deal came along. But he only identified a Bosnian operator as possible target.
A banker who has looked at the deal said that an auction was currently under way for Belarus operator Velcom, and that there was interest in the group by several Russian operators and possibly by Telekom Austria.
"Several people are looking at this, mostly Russians," the banker said. "They are the preferred bidders because they have many years of experience there."
"I have a very strong feeling that Telekom Austria may also be looking at it," he said.
Russian news agency Interfax reported last month that Cyprus-based SB Telecom had taken over all of Velcom by buying out the Belarus government.
Velcom declined to comment both on the government's stake sale and on whether there was an auction for it going on. (Additional reporting by Andrei Makhovsky in Minsk)