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Matav braves the bear market

Issuer: Matav

Amount: $773.9 million

Launched: November 13 1997

Global coordinators: Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse First Boston

Another month, another bear market, another telecoms privatization. Hardly a week has gone by since September without a government somewhere getting ready to sell off its stake. Portugal Telecom and France Télécom got in first, and just avoided the turmoil which hit equity markets worldwide in mid-October. Telecom Italia was not so lucky, and also had to cope with BZW, its global coordinator, being sold off, and a mini-crisis for the government. Equity offerings from China Telecom and Telstra in Australia added to the telecoms bonanza.

But if any telecoms IPO in the middle of the bear run would raise eyebrows, Matav must surely have been it. Three months ago, an IPO from a central or east European company, especially from one of the Visegrad states (Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland), would have encountered little trouble in being placed with investors at home and abroad. And Matav had the prestige of being about to issue the largest IPO to date from an east European country, and the first to list on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company had spent four years building up its reputation in preparation for an IPO.

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