Deutsche Telekom, OTE set to exit Romania

Just over nine years ago, Deutsche Telekom (DT) formally launched its famous corporate magenta color and “T” logo in Romania. The move saw both the former Romtelecom and Cosmote Romania renamed as Telekom Romania.

Fast forward to November 2023, and the stage is being set for the gradual disappearance of the Telekom brand and operational presence from this eastern European market.

DT is active in Romania by way of its majority shareholding in Greek operator OTE. The group sold the fixed-line operations of Telekom Romania to Orange Romania in 2021, leaving only the mobile assets under the newly named Telekom Romania Mobile Communications (TRMC).

The sale at the time was attributed to difficult market conditions in Romania and framed as a way of improving the competitiveness of the respective fixed and mobile businesses. 

Since then, OTE has been “exploring strategic options” for TRMC, including a potential sale. On Tuesday, in response to a request from the Hellenic Capital Market Commission, OTE confirmed press speculation that it is in negotiations with a potential buyer over the sale of 100% of TRMC.

A Clever deal in the making

Specifically, OTE has been talking to Quantum Projects Group, which is controlled by Adrian Tomșa, the owner of Romanian broadcaster Clever Media Network (CMN).

As things stand, the parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding and filed for approval with the Romanian authorities. According to local media, clearance will be required from the Consiliul Suprem de Apărare a Ţării (Supreme Council of National Defence/CSAT). 

No further details were provided, although OTE indicated that it will make “all necessary announcements to the investor community if and when relevant.”

Should the transaction go ahead, OTE will offload its last remaining operation outside of Greece, allowing it to focus solely on its domestic market. The Greek operator has already sold Telekom Albania and Globul in Bulgaria, for example.

Indeed, an exit from Romania further shrinks DT’s overall European footprint after M&A elsewhere. For example, in 2022 DT and partner Tele2 Netherlands sold T-Mobile Netherlands to a consortium of private equity funds advised by Apax Partners LLP and Warburg Pincus. The Dutch mobile operator has since been rebranded as Odido.

In Europe, and excluding Romania, DT is now present in Germany as well as Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland and Slovakia.

In terms of other recent European M&A, in 2022 DT sold 51% of towerco GD Towers to Digital Bridge and Brookfield. The towerco comprises its tower assets in Germany and Austria.