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Cable Company Buys No. 3 Mobile Operator (II)

Ljubljana, 17 October (STA) - Cable operator Telemach has purchased Tušmobil, the No. 3 mobile operator in Slovenia, in a move that will bolster its position as the country's second telecommunications company and signals the start of telecommunications industry consolidation.

The purchase was confirmed by Tuš Holding, the retail and telecommunications group owned by businessman Mirko Tuš which controls Tušmobil, through the Ljubljana Stock Exchange on Friday.

While the value of the acquisition was not disclosed, business daily Finance has reported that Telemach, which is party of the UGL telecommunications group, paid around EUR 150m for the outright stake.

"With the new owner Tušmobil will be able to enhance its offer of fixed and mobile communication services and bolster its position on the market," Tušmobil said in the statement.

The company, which acquired licenses for fourth-generation mobile service as part of a mass spectrum auction in February, hopes to invest heavily in upgrading its network to compete against the leading operators, Telekom Slovenije and Simobil.

Telemach and Tušmobil are already working together, as the cable operator has been providing mobile telephony services through Tušmobil's network since 2012.

However, it is thought that the value of its offer made by Telemach tipped the scales in its favour against a number of rival bids, one of which is thought to have come from the Telekom Austria-owned Simobil.

Tuš Holding sought to offload Tušmobil as part of financial restructuring to reduce its debt to banks, which stood at EUR 345m at the end of 2012.

While there had been reports of wide ranging interest for the mobile operator, it is thought that bids made in the past fell short of expectations of Tuš Holding.

Tušmobil has seen a steady rise in market share in the past two years and currently controls around an eighth of the mobile telephony market with a base of around 300,000 subscribers.

The company reported an 8% rise in net revenues, at 38.7m, and a net profit of EUR 1.5m in the first half of the year.

The move is expected to be part of a number of tectonic shifts in the Slovenian telecommunications sector, as further consolidation and the privatisation of the leading operator, Telekom Slovenije, is imminent.

Simobil is reported to be eyeing Slovenia's biggest optic fibre operator T-2, which recently filed for bankruptcy due to past debts but remains profitable.

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