Austria Ready to Let Slim Get Telekom Majority, Chairman Says

The Austrian government is ready to let Carlos Slim’s America Movil SAB become Telekom Austria AG’s biggest investor or even own a majority stake, the head of the country’s state holding company said today.

The government’s consensus is to keep a blocking minority of 25 percent in important companies including the former telecommunications monopoly, said Rudolf Kemler, who is also supervisory board chairman of Vienna-based Telekom Austria, in an interview with Austrian state radio ORF.

“The question whether Carlos Slim surpasses us, and whether he holds two to three percentage points more or goes beyond 50 percent is actually secondary,” Kemler said in the interview. The state holding company Kemler heads, known as Oesterreichische Industrieholding AG, owns 28.4 percent of Telekom Austria, while America Movil owns 26.8 percent.

America Movil’s withdrawal from a bid for the majority of Dutch operator Royal KPN NV last year fueled speculation the Mexican company may increase its stake in Telekom Austria. The company has an “excellent relationship” with all shareholders, Chief Executive Officer Hannes Ametsreiter said yesterday, declining to comment on America Movil’s plans.

Telekom Austria and KPN are the two best-performing telephone companies in the 24-company Bloomberg Europe Telecommunication Services Index this year. Telekom Austria advanced 18 percent this year, trading at 6.47 euros by 12:17 p.m. in Vienna and giving the company a market capitalization of 2.9 billion euros ($3.9 billion).

Telekom Austria is “very likely” to sell new shares because of its financial situation after it paid more than 1 billion euros for new Austrian spectrum, America Movil CEO Daniel Hajj has said in an interview with Austria’s News magazine last year, a deal that would open an opportunity for the Mexican company to increase its stake in the operator.

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