Though small in their own right, the Baltic Republics, when taken together, constitute a significant TV market.
They are also considered as an extension of their own domestic markets by a number of leading Scandinavian industry players.
It is therefore perhaps not surprising that TeliaSonera, one of these players, has taken the decision to consolidate its interests in the Baltic Republics by lodging bids to buy out both Estonia’s Eesti Telekom and Lithuania’s TEO LT, the incumbent telcos in their respective markets.
In Estonia, the local financial markets have reacted negatively to the move, expressing the view that TeliaSonera’s bid for Eesti Telekom is too low.
Per-Arne Blomquist, TeliaSonera’s group finance director, has dismissed this criticism while at the same time restating the company’s commitment to the region, adding that increased ownership of the telco would enable it to “develop and provide new services to customers at lower cost.”
The move has also come in for criticism in Lithuania, with Martynas Cesnavicius, a board member at TEO LT, saying that the TeliaSonera’s bid was low by EU standards and should be assessed by independent experts.
Although it remains to be seen if TeliaSonera does in fact gain overall control of both Eesti Telekom and TEO LT, its position as a key player in the Baltic Republics will remain unchanged.
Aside from Eesti Telekom, which is the sole provider of IPTV services and one of the leading cable operators in Estonia, and TEO LT, the sole provider of IPTV and DTT services in Lithuania, its TV interests in the region also include Latvia’s Lattelecom.
Besides operating the country’s only IPTV service, which recently posted 30,000 subscribers, the latter has also just launched a DTT operation. At present, it is 49% indirectly owned by TeliaSonera through Tilts Communications, with the remaining shares held by the Latvian state.
It remains to be seen if TeliaSonera, in due course, also tries to raise its stake in Lattelecom.