Austrian state holding company ÖIAG's board gave the green light Friday for management to negotiate a shareholders' syndicate agreement at Telekom Austria with America Movil, the telecommunications giant controlled by Mexican multi-billionaire Carlos Slim.
That approval, however, was conditioned on Telekom Austria's headquarters remaining in Vienna and the Austrian government maintaining a blocking minority stake of 25 percent in TA, the Austria Press Agency reported.
Austrian Finance Minister Michael Spindelegger expressed satisfaction with the board's decision to negotiate an agreement with America Movil, TA's second-largest shareholder with a 26 percent stake, slightly less than ÖIAG's 28 percent interest.
An ÖIAG spokesman did not give a timeframe for reaching an agreement, saying that would depend on how the talks with the Mexico City-based company progress.
The goal of the talks is to reach agreement on a 10-year pact to pool the stakes held by the Austrian government and America Movil and negotiate an accompanying capital increase.
OIAG chief Rudolf Kemler said Tuesday that after receiving the green light for the negotiations from the state holding company's board a syndicate agreement could be ready for the partners' signatures "in two or three weeks"
America Movil is looking to boost its stake in TA to at least 30 percent, while the Austrian government is seeking a strong partner to ensure the company remains one of Europe's leading telecommunications providers.
Once the shareholder pact is finalized, the two companies will be required to submit an offer for TA's remaining shares.
Slim plans to invest some 1.5 billion euros ($2.06 billion) in TA as part of a push to expand the company's presence in Central and Southeast Europe, according to Austrian press reports.
TA is one of Central Europe's leading telecoms companies with a presence in Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Belarus, as well as Austria.
The group has some 16,000 employees and posted just over 4.3 billion euros (around $6 billion) in revenue in 2012. EFE