RIGA - The government said it might soon join four of its existing communication networks in a 15 million lat (22.6 million euro) venture that would create a rival to state-controlled Lattelekom.
The Dienas Bizness daily reported on Sept. 1 that the plan followed a document drafted by the state information network agency VITA, while VITA officials told the Baltic News Service that the plan was under consideration for the benefit of consumers.
The document states that setting up an entity capable of competing with Lattelekom through a joint telecommunication and data transmission network owned by the state and its companies 's including Latvenergo power utility, Latvijas Dzelzcels railway company, Latvia's state radio and television center and VITA 's would be economically feasible.
Alianse, the planned new entity, would provide fixed domestic and international telecommunication and data transmission services.
"I have seen this working document, and it is rich in information," said Maris Riekstins, Latvijas Dzelzcels infrastructure department deputy director. "But more questions than answers follow. No comprehensive business analysis of this intended joint network is yet available. Therefore, our position is still neutrally cautious."
Lattelekom's monopoly on the fixed-line market ceased in early 2003, and since then new players have been allowed to enter the market. The company is 51 percent owned by the Latvian state and 49 percent by TeliaSonera.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Indulis Emsis said he would seek legal advice from Transparency International over the best way of regaining state control over Lattelekom, even though the state owns 51 percent.
"Their [Transparency Inter-national's] strength is that they say how a country should struggle with large-scale global corporations. In this case, I want to use Transparency International assistance to asses how the state should best represent its interests at Lattelekom," said Emsis.
Members of Emsis' Cabinet in recent weeks have slammed Delna, the local chapter of Transparency International, for becoming too involved in political discourse. The prime minister now wants the organization to help the government regain control in the telecommunication company, where he feels the state gets the shorter end of the stick compared with TeliaSonera, which is 49 percent owner.