Bulgarian competition watchdog approves sale of telecom carrier Vivacom

Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) has approved the sale of Bulgarian telecom firm Vivacom, one of the country’s three major carriers. The regulator’s decision was taken on December 22 2015, but the text of the ruling was not posted until January 8.

Vivacom was put for sale after its parent company, Luxembourg-registered InterV, defaulted on a 150 million euro loan from VTB Capital, the investment unit of Russian bank VTB. It was sold at an auction, with businessman Spas Roussev acquiring control of the company for 330 million euro, reports in local and international media said on November 20.

CPC’s ruling does not mention Roussev by name and only mentions the name of the company that bought InterV, another Luxembourg-registered entity, Viva Telecom. The acquiring company has no operations in Bulgaria, thus the sale would have no impact on competition on the Bulgarian market, the regulator said.

Roussev was one of three bidders, alongside Greek businessman Panos Germanos, who bid together with Third Point, the vehicle of activist investor Daniel Loeb, Reuters reported at the time. A third bidder did not meet the tender requirements, local news website Mediapool.bg said.

The winning bid put the value of Vivacom at 750 million euro, Mediapool’s report said.

Roussev is best known in Bulgaria as a one-time adviser to former prime minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg. According to Bulgarian media, he introduced the exiled former king to a number of finance professionals who later held senior positions in Saxe-Coburg’s cabinet, including finance minister Milen Velchev, on whose watch Vivacom – then known as the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, the former state fixed-line monopoly – was privatised.

Velchev is now the head of the Bulgarian office of VTB Capital, Reuters reported.

Before the sale, the largest shareholder in Vivacom was Tsvetan Vassilev, who was also the majority shareholder of the Corporate Commercial Bank, which was declared insolvent earlier this year. Vassilev, who is wanted in Bulgaria on charges of embezzlement, is currently fighting extradition requests from Bulgarian prosecutors in Serbia.

Roussev’s name has also been linked in Bulgarian media to the sales of several hotels in Sofia in recent years, including the Hilton and Radisson Blu.

(Photo: Nedko/flickr.com)



The Sofia Globe staff

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