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Sistema mulls bid to buy Telekom Austria

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Mar 27, 2010 7:05am EDT (Reuters) - Russian oil-to-telecoms group Sistema is looking into a bid to acquire Telekom Austria, Austrian mass-circulation daily Krone said on Saturday.
Quoting financial market sources, Krone said Vladimir Yevtushenkov, Sistema's main owner, was prepared to pay significantly over the current share price of 4.5 billion euros ($6 billion) for Austria Telekom.
If Austrian state holding company OeIAG proved unwilling to sell its 27 percent stake in Telekom Austria, Sistema could try to buy Telekom shares on the open market, Krone reported.
But OeIAG spokeswoman Anita Bauer told Reuters the concern had no government mandate to unload its stake and therefore there was no basis for talks to sell it. She said she did not know whether Sistems had approached OeIAG. Sistema, which owns Russia's No. 1 mobile phone operator MTS, in December reported a more than 16-fold surge in third-quarter net profit to $1.68 billion, propelled by energy assets bought earlier last year.
On February 24, Telekom Austria registered fourth-quarter profit of 399 million euros flattered by marketing costs cuts and a one-off tax credit, which offset weak revenue and pushed earnings slightly above market expectations.
Revenue declined by 10 percent, more than expected, as falling prices across the board sharply depressed revenue of its mobile unit, and because customers in crisis-afflicted eastern Europe continued to cut down their mobile phone usage.
Austria's Social Democrats, who govern in a broad coalition with conservatives, oppose selling OiAEG's holding but could contemplate a deal where it retained part of the new company.
The Alpine republic has one of the most competitive mobile phone markets in Europe, allowing for relatively cheap calls and mobile Internet access.
That has weighed on the firm's mobile earnings and also undermined its fixed-line business as customers abandon their phones and use mobile instead of fixed-line broadband Internet.

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