Telekom Austria confirms eyeing Belarus purchase

VIENNA, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Telekom Austria (TELA.VI: Quote, Profile, Research), the phone carrier expanding in central and eastern Europe, said on Monday it was in talks about a possible acquisition in Belarus. Telekom Austria said in a statement that it could not disclose further details at this stage. It did not give the name of the acquisition target or possible size of a deal, but tried to assuage investors fretting it could overspend. "Telekom Austria reiterates its strategy of profitable growth and continues to feel bound by the financial discipline it has proven in the past," it said. Citing financial sources, Austrian newswire APA reported on Friday that Telekom Austria was looking at buying a Belarus mobile phone operator for more than 1.6 billion euros ($2.2 billion). Chief Executive Boris Nemsic had 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 a 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 from several Russian operators and possibly Telekom Austria. Russian news agency Interfax reported last month that Cyprus-based SB Telecom had taken over all of Velcom by buying out the Belarus government.