January 12, 2010 / 2:55 PM / 10 years ago

Telenor sole bidder for second Serb licence

* Telenor sole bidder for second licence

* Seeking to enter market with three mln land lines

* Financial offer for 10-yr licence to be unveiled Jan. 18

* Serb market to open for new operators after ‘11-official

(Adds detail from Telenor executive, minister quotes)

By Ivana Sekularac

BELGRADE, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Norway’s Telenor (TEL.OL) is the only company to have submitted a binding bid for Serbia’s second landline phone licence, the state-owned telecoms supervisor Ratel said on Tuesday.

The second landline licence will end a decades-long monopoly held by Telekom Srbija. Telenor’s financial offer will be opened on Jan. 18.

“We have received only one bid — from Norwegian Telenor,” said Milan Jankovic, head of the tender commission which met for the opening of the bids.

Telenor is already a leading cellphone operator in Serbia.

“I think it is still too early for big statements, we first have to see whether our financial bid will be accepted,” said Goran Vasic, Telenor’s executive director for corporate affairs.

“I would like to see our company as a guarantor of liberalisation of Serbia’s landline market that will provide better services,” he said.

Telekom Srbija, 20 percent owned by Greece’s OTE (OTEr.AT), has had a monopoly in landline telephony. Its mobile arm MTS is one of Serbia’s three cellphone operators.

According to company’s figures, Serbia had 3 million landlines in 2008 with penetration estimated at 41 percent against 128 percent in fully liberalised GSM telephony.

Low landline penetration is mostly due to infrastructure that lacked investment for a decade during 1990s when Serbia was under the international isolation over its role in Balkan wars.

Serbs still complain about poor quality services of both landline telephony and broadband Internet services.

The government called the landline tender in November, inviting telecoms firms with at least a 200 million euro ($290.3 million) turnover in 2009 and 1 million registered users to submit bids by Jan. 12.

Officials had hoped that at least two companies would bid, allowing the government to sell the licence in an auction for a higher price.

“Telenor is a well respected company and I believe that their offer will be good and that they will be awarded a 10-year licence,” Serbia’s telecommunication Minister Jasna Matic told journalists.

Matic said Telenor will have until end of 2011 to develop its service.

“After that we are going to facilitate the procedure for new licences to landline operators and we expect even greater competition,” she said.

Telenor established a presence in Serbia in 2006 with a purchase of a local mobile operator for 1.5 billion euros, while Mobilkom, the mobile telephony arm of Telekom Austria (TELA.VI), paid 320 million euros for a third GSM licence.

(Writing by Gordana Filipovic; Editing by Sharon Lindores)

($1=.6889 Euro)

((gordana.filipovic@thomsonreuters.com; +381 11 3044 930; Reuters Messaging: gordana.filipovic.reuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: SERBIA TELECOMS/

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