Experts say Telekom Serbia has huge debts

Nova.rs/Vesna Lalić

Experts told N1 that the state-owned Telekom Serbia is one of the biggest debtors in Serbia and is forced to sell its strategic assets.

Consultant Bogdan Petrovic said that the fact that Telekom is selling its antenna arrays is less worrying than the fact that it has not been paying its electricity bills. He added that the state telecommunications giant is among the top 10 debtors in the country. “Telekom is not paying its bills and is forced to pay 14.5 percent interest on that. Telekom is not liquid with huge amounts in short-term debts and low levels of current assets. It can’t repay its short-term debts from its annual turnover. It took out a loan of 450 million Euro and even that isn’t enough so it has to sell its antenna arrays,” Petrovic said.

The BIRN investigative news portal said that it had access to Telekom final accounts for 2022 which showed that the company’s short-term debts are much higher than its current assets.

Petrovic said that Telekom needs to introduce 5G which includes new antenna arrays and added that “they expect the company that buys the arrays to invest”. “The problem is that Telekom pays rent to that company,” he said.

Petrovic said that Telekom is an open shareholder society with 5 million shareholders and “has an obligation to be on the stock exchange and publish quarterly financial reports” and asked why Telekom still hasn’t got shares on the exchange to allow shareholders to trade. “We are still waiting for the 2022 report which was initially filed with errors,” he said. According to him, the company has a turnover of a billion Euro and still hasn’t paid dividends. “It’s probably waiting for the sale,” he said.

Petrovic said Telekom’s debts have a variable interest rate which means that the annual interest on its 100 million Euro debt is higher than it was two years earlier. He said Telekom needs to cut down its administration just as the national power company EPS did. “The enormous surplus of non-productive employees is a huge problem in the public sector,” Petrovic said.

Dejan Soskic, university economy professor and a former Governor of the National Bank of Serbia (NBS), said that Telekom is in serious difficulties. He said the company was “involved in inappropriate business decisions with huge investments”. “Telecommunications are a field which offers huge profits and the fact that Telekom is facing problems indicates very bad management,” he said.

Soskic said that control over state companies is very important. “If there is no political will to control public companies you are entering an environment which leads to the dispersion of state assets. Whoever solid the boat, it will sink if everyone drills a little hole in it,” Soskic said.