Tirana, Tuesday February 17
—The EBRD, International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Greece’s Alpha Bank today announced their partnership with Vodafone Albania Sh.A. through an €85 million loan that will enable Vodafone to extend its network coverage and provide quality services across Albania, increasing competition in what was previously a monopolistic sector.
The EBRD and IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank, are each providing €35 million for nine years, with a further €15 million syndicated to Alpha Bank, Greece’s second-largest bank, for up to eight years. The loan package – unavailable in the local financial sector – represents Albania’s largest ever debt-financed project, and the first syndicated private sector, long-term loan in the country.
Peter Reiniger, Business Group Director for Energy and Telecoms at the EBRD, said the Bank is working with Vodafone Albania to help it expand its business in the country and promote competition in a heavily under-nourished sector. He added that the project indicates growing confidence in Albania, and also shows that strong, well-managed Albanian private-sector companies can obtain long-term financing from the market. As well as supporting market-economy principles, the project should demonstrate to other potential private investors the opportunities that exist in the country.
Khosrow Zamani, IFC director for Southern Europe and Central Asia, noted that “this deal highlights the IFC’s commitment to supporting Albania’s private sector and helping develop its telecommunication services.” The project is expected to expand telecommunication services to reach a larger part of the Albanian population. “Vodafone Albania’s entry as a strong second operator in the country, together with its introduction of prepaid services, has led to an expansion of service and a reduction in tariffs, thereby extending telecommunication services to limited income and rural consumers”, added Mr Zamani.
Artemis Theodoridis, Executive General Manager of Alpha Bank, said: “Our participation in this project demonstrates our strong commitment to the Albanian market and to investments in the country’s telecommunication services and overall infrastructure. Alpha Bank currently ranks first amongst Albanian and foreign commercial banking institutions located in Albania in terms of financings and has since 1998 consistently proven its commitment in supporting large scale private sector projects and commercial businesses across the country. The Bank confirms its strong interest in pursuing new private and public sector projects in the future.”
Established in 2001 after it was awarded a 15-year licence to provide GSM mobile services across the country, Vodafone Albania is the second largest mobile operator in the country. It is majority owned by Vodafone Group PLC, the UK-based global wireless operator, and is managed by its subsidiary Vodafone-Panafon S.A., the Greek mobile telecoms company. The Vodafone Group is the world’s largest provider of mobile communication services, and a top 10 global company. This latest project underlines its growing interest in Southeast Europe.
Thomas Papaspyrou, General Manager of Vodafone Albania, said this project is very important for the Albanian mobile communications sector. “It will help improve services for Vodafone’s customers and also contribute to Vodafone’s plans to develop further in the country,” Mr Papaspyrou said. “Moreover, by working with institutions such as the EBRD and IFC, we benefit from financial support that ensures we can offer the best mobile communication services to our existing and future customers.”
The EBRD is the single largest investor in central and eastern Europe. In the telecoms sector alone, the Bank has invested over €1.8 billion.
The EBRD, owned by 60 governments and two intergovernmental institutions, aims to foster the transition from centrally planned to market economies in central and eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
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IFC has invested over $65 million in Albania, with projects ranging from the financial to infrastructure and construction to oil and gas. IFC’s strategy in Albania remains focused on developing a strong private sector, while improving competitiveness and supporting job creation. IFC
) promotes and finances sustainable private sector development in emerging markets, and remains the biggest provider of resource flows to the private sector in the developing world amongst development finance institutions. IFC also mobilizes capital in the international financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses.