Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris said Carlos Slim’s America Movil SAB hasn’t approached him and Ronny Pecik about their stake in Telekom Austria AG.
“My understanding is that Slim approached the Austrian state,” Sawiris said in a telephone interview today from Egypt. “He didn’t approach us.” Sawiris helped Pecik finance his 20 percent stake in Telekom Austria.
America Movil has held “early” talks with investors Pecik and Sawiris on their stake in the company, Kronen Zeitung reported this month, without saying where it got the information. The Austrian state is Telekom Austria’s biggest owner with 28.4 percent via its asset agency OeIAG. A sale of the stake would require approval by the coalition government, which is led by the Social Democrats, who oppose privatizations.
Slim, the world’s richest person, is turning to Europe as subscriber growth slows in markets such as Brazil and Mexico. Claire Verhagen, an outside spokeswoman for America Movil, didn’t comment.
“To sell the OeIAG stake, one would need a privatization assignment from the government,” Markus Beyrer, head of OeIAG and chairman of Telekom Austria, said today. “There isn’t one and it isn’t probable that one will be issued.” He was speaking at the former telephone monopoly’s annual shareholder meeting in Vienna.
Telekom Austria shares fell 2.2 percent to 7.737 euros at the 5:50 p.m. close of trading in Vienna.
America Movil this month made an unsolicited offer of 2.6 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to increase its stake in Dutch phone company Royal KPN NV to as much as 28 percent. KPN said the offer is low and hired investment banks to explore options.
Sawiris pulled out of joining Telekom Austria’s supervisory board because of the political situation in Egypt, Pecik told shareholders in Vienna today. Pecik, who himself was elected to the supervisory board with 73 percent of votes, said Sawiris will continue to advise him on Telekom Austria.
It wouldn’t have made sense to vote Sawiris to the supervisory board only for him to then miss meetings because he was tied up in Egypt, Pecik told reporters after the AGM.
The Austrian investor, who spent about 1 billion euros to build his Telekom Austria stake, said he didn’t plan to increase his stake.
Pecik, who in the past had called for new management to replace Chief Executive Officer Hannes Ametsreiter and Chief Financial Officer Hans Tschuden and turn around the “undervalued and undermanaged” company, told the AGM he would suggest adding a third and “if needed a fourth” member to Telekom Austria’s management board.
“Together with my financial partner, I stand behind the company, behind its development and say that the company, which is part of Austria’s history and landscape, has to move forward,” Pecik said, calling himself an “incredible patriot.”
Telekom Austria is struggling with falling revenue at home and in its eastern European units stretching from Belarus to Bulgaria, while it’s saddled with a large payroll stemming from its days as state monopoly.