Camerons ventures into Bulgaria for Viva contract

CMS Cameron McKenna is set to enter a political minefield after its client Viva Ventures was named as the preferred bidder to buy a majority stake in state-owned Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC).

Vienna-registered Viva, a consortium that includes investment fund Advent International, will offer €200m (£128m) for a 65 per cent share in BTG, which has been on the market for four years.

Camerons saw off competition from Debevoise & Plimpton, which represented the only other interested party in this most recent auction round, an all-Turkish group including Koc Holding and Turk Telecom.

The Turkish group offered just E185 (£119m) for the stake in BTG, but promised to cut fewer jobs from the telecoms group than Viva if its bid was successful.

While the deal is a significant step in Bulgaria, opening up trade to foreign investors and giving Camerons a significant foothold in the region, the firm will now be charged with manoeuvring its client through potential industrial action by the trade union KNSB, which represents around 70 per cent of BTG staff.

Despite both of the final bidders pledging to invest €400m (£256m) in the business, there is still grave concern about the rate of expected redundancies.

White & Case was acting for American International Group, which was potentially a third bidder in the process. However, the company failed to make an offer for the telecoms group when the final prices were submitted in September.

The political repercussions on the deal are expected to reverberate widely for the Bulgarian government, which is being advised by Denton Wilde Sapte.

Just two years ago, when the telecoms sector was still flourishing, Bulgaria's administration rejected a $610m (£390m) bid for a 51 per cent share in the group by Greek business OTE and the Netherland's KPN.