Kosovo Telecom: Trailblazer Brought to its Knees

A fast-changing digital world has proved challenging for telecommunications companies across the Western Balkans, but few have fared as badly as Kosovo's state-owned Telecom, where market changes have conspired with chronic mismanagement and stiff competition to bring the firm to the brink.

Heavily indebted and over-staffed, Kosovo's largest telecommunications provider, PTK, has gone from the young country's most profitable firm to a loss-maker since 2015.

It took a further step towards potential bankruptcy this week when Z Mobile, a private provider, called in a debt of some 25 million euros through private enforcement, giving Telecom a week to pay up or generate the money by selling assets.

"Telecom… in its current state has minimal chances of making a transaction of such value," said CEO Bedri Istrefi, vowing to fight the move.

Kosovo's government wants to put Telecom up for sale again, its third attempt in a decade, while Telekom Slovenije also announced this month that it plans to sell Kosovo's second mobile provider, IPKO - heralding a major shake-up of Kosovo's telecommunications market.

Workers are already threatening to strike.

"The attempt to privatise Telecom is only to cover up the failure of the institutions in managing Telecom and the crimes that have occurred there over the years," Lahim Balaj, head of the Telecom Trade Union, told BIRN.

Illustration. Photo: Pixabay/albertoadan

Fateful contract

Since 2015, PTK has posted losses of 7.9 million euros, 50.9 million euros, 13.9 million euros and, last year, 15.5 million euros, according a report of National Audit Office, which said the figures may not represent the "true" picture.

The share capital has plummeted from...

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