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The Dutch government on Wednesday halved its 16 per cent stake in KPN and pledged to give up its veto on mergers and takeovers, easing the path to the sale of the former state-owned telecommunications incumbent.

However, bankers and analysts believe it could be 12 months before a bidder emerges for the Dutch company, that has regularly been the subject of takeover talk.

Capital, the US fund manager, has recently built up a 20 per cent stake in the Dutch incumbent, almost doubling its previous holding. But several bankers played down suggestions the move signalled a deal was on the cards.

Peter Olofsen, at Theodoor Gilissen, the Dutch stock-broker, said the fact that the Dutch state had sold its shares to ABN Amro Roths-child and KPN indicated a bid was not imminent.

Ad Scheepbouwer, KPN chief executive, told the FT last month KPN was not
vulnerable to a takeover and was instead considering acquisitions.

However, the government's pledge to dispose of its golden share “as soon as possible” and no later than the year-end, led some traders to suggest KPN might attract interest from venture capital groups, which have been very active in telecoms recently.

One banker said that while the Dutch government would not oppose any deal, it would clearly rather see KPN go to a strategic investor, like Deutsche Telekom, than a financial buyer.

KPN is paying about €500m ($586m) for 60m of the 165m shares sold off by the Dutch government and plans to cancel them. It will finance the buyback from available cash as well as credit facilities.

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