A consortium of Israeli companies is backing out of plans to acquire the Bulgarian cellular company MobilTel.
The companies in question are the venture capital group Tamir Fishman, the Yedioth Ahronoth publishing house and business mogul Lev Leviev, who runs the Africa Israel investment corporation.
Months ago the consortium announced it had agreed to buy MobilTel, the only cellular operator in Bulgaria, from brothers Mikhail and Lev Chernoy, together with a local entrepreneur.
The Bulgarian government, which suspected the Chernoy brothers of involvement in money laundering and other illegal activities in Europe, placed heavy pressure on the two to sell MobilTel. Lev Chernoy, the manager of the company, was even barred from entering Bulgaria.
Negotiations over the sale of Mobiltel to various investors have been ongoing. Among those who considered buying it were the Israel Corporation, the Dankner group, businessman Gad Zeevi and others. Estimates were the Leviev-Fishman-Yedioth group was to put about $1 billion in the investment.
No comment was available from Fishman or Yedioth last night. Leviev's spokesperson said Leviev had looked into the deal and decided to stay out. He denied rumors that the decision of Bank Hapoalim not to finance the transaction was the main reason for his withdrawal.