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Austrian report Austrian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-09-13 07:16:31
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No information on potential stake acquisition

Earlier press report claimed local businessman, other partners eyeing 20% stake in incumbent operator. Telekom Austria AG Friday said it has no information about speculation that an investor group has purchased a sizeable stake in the company.

Telekom Austria said in a statement that it "has not received any information regarding current speculation on a potential recent acquisition of a substantial stake." The company was responding to a report in the weekly Austrian magazine Format published Friday, which said Viennese businessman Ronny Pecik and other investment partners, including Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, together plan to acquire a 20% stake for about EUR750 million. The report cited people familiar with the matter.

 Telekom Austria noted that under Austrian law, shareholders are required to notify the exchange, regulators and the company of stakes that exceed 5% within two days. The report said Pecik declined to comment and Sawiris wasn't available to comment.


Ex-chancellor quits as MP amid Telekom Austria probe

Former Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said on Monday he would resign his seat in parliament amid a widening corruption scandal centred on Telekom Austria. His resignation takes effect at the end of the week and follows extensive Austrian media reports about supposed slush fund payments to politicians and lobbyists during his time as chancellor. The former head of the conservative People's Party (OVP), which now governs in a coalition with Social Democrats, told a hastily summoned news conference he did not acknowledge any wrongdoing but that an independent investigation into corruption allegations had to be free of any political influence.

"It is factually unjust and irresponsible to link the OVP to the accusations that have arisen," he said. Telekom Austria, in which the state has a 28 percent stake, commissioned an independent panel on Friday to look into allegations of improper payments and compliance shortfalls. It is due to issue its report next year. Schuessel, 66, was chancellor from 2000 until 2007 under OVP coalitions with right-wing parties. He has been a regular member of parliament since 2008.


Austria reacts angrily to Hungarian FX loan plan

Austrian officials reacted angrily on Monday to proposals by Hungary to let households repay foreign currency loans in one go at low fixed exchange rates and said the European Commission was trying to convince Budapest to abandon the plan. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban deemed the plan to Allow Hungarians to repay Swiss franc and euro loans at a discount to market levels "feasible", and warned against forcing banks to issue new forint loans or mandatory debt conversion.

But officials said the steps could cost Austrian lenders dear. Austrian banks including UniCredit Bank Austria, Erste Group Bank and Raiffeisen Bank International are among the leading lenders in the European Union's emerging eastern wing, and they depend on the region as a main source of growth. They have roughly 6 billion Euros ($8.23 billion) worth of foreign-currency loans outstanding in Hungary, officials said. The banks declined to comment on the issue, on which officials said they were seeking more details. But an Austrian official who asked not to be named said the European Commission was intervening.   

"Already over the weekend there have been several attempts to get an idea what (Orban) is planning exactly and to convince him to back down because it could have a major impact on banks and it is not in line with the legislation in the European Union," the official said. "It is a complete failure to comply with the rules within the Union."  The Austrian central bank and market regulator FMA have long warned that foreign-currency credit - often loans taken out years ago by retail borrowers using Swiss franc loans as a way to cut interest costs -- posed risks to the system. The franc's surge as a safe-haven asset, a rise checked somewhat by aggressive action this month from the Swiss National Bank , means those risks are now coming through. "We have been saying that this is a very serious risk to our banks, actually more than the liquidity and sovereign risk that most of the banking sector is groaning under, but ... not realising how soon it would materialise," one supervisor said.   

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