Yushchenko Urges Privatization Of Ukrainian Telecom Giant Ukrtelekom

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's administration on Wednesday urged the swift privatization of telecommunications giant Ukrtelekom — a move that has faced opposition from supporters of his rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

The sale of Ukrtelekom, in which the government holds a 92.9 percent stake, has been repeatedly postponed despite Yushchenko's calls for an auction this year.

The State Property Fund, headed by a member of Yanukovych's governing coalition, recently proposed leaving a controlling stake in state hands and sought to sell off smaller chunks of shares. A court prohibited the sale of a 1 percent stake in may.

Yushchenko's office strongly criticized the idea, and his administration on Wednesday amplified its call for an effort to attract a strategic investor by selling off a controlling share.

"There is no need to postpone the privatization of this object," said deputy administration chief Oleksandr Shlapak.

Government officials have predicted that a 50 percent stake could go for at least US$3 billion (€2.5 billion) at auction, though analysts have said it would probably fetch much less, citing outdated equipment.

In 2005, the government sold off the flagship steel mill Kryvorizhstal, netting US$4.8 billion (€4.1 billion) in the former Soviet republic's biggest and most profitable privatization auction to date.

Source: International Herald Tribune