MLex, an independent media organisation, has reported that Telekom Serbia’s links to the state drew the European Commission (EC) attention over possible inconsistencies with state aid rules.
It added that the latest EC report on Serbia’s progress to the European Union gave “a boost to Dutch telecom rival United Group (UG), which is locked in a series of disputes“ with Serbia’s state telecommunication company.
Analysing the report, MLex recalled the part speaking about a “lack of transparency” in the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) buyout of around 40 percent of five-year bonds issued by Telekom Serbia last year.
MLex cited a part of the report saying that “further efforts are needed to comprehensively ensure the independence of NBS and prohibition of monetary financing in line with the EU acquis,” adding that Telekom Serbia had benefited from ‘implicit state guarantees’ to face its debt levels.
“The Commission also raised concerns about the political influence on entities controlled by the state, and said several legal disputes, inside and outside of the country, affect Telekom Serbia due to the high media market concentration in the Balkan country,” MLex reported.
It added the EC did not explicitly mention the UG, telecom and media company operating across the Balkans and other Southern European countries owned by private equity firm BC Partners, but recalled that Telekom Serbia filed an antitrust complaint in Serbia and in the EU against the UG for “allegedly adding terms to contracts that tie licenses for its channels to contract negotiations in other business areas.”
The UG denied the accusations and “labelled Telekom Serbia as ‘the state favourite, that enjoys all legal and illegal state aid,’ MLex said.
The media organisation recalled that the UG complained to Serbia’s state aid authority over the NBS bond purchase earlier this year.
“In an escalation of the legal dispute, Telekom Serbia also filed a complaint in Bosnia and Herzegovina against United Group in March over a deal that its rival struck to get the exclusive broadcasting rights of CNN and Newsmax,” MLex which provides exclusive market insight, analysis and commentary on regulatory risk, has reported.
MLex media organisation, founded in 2005, has 15 bureaus across the world, from Washington to Beijing.