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Though the Economic Competition Office has no objections to a merger between Magyar Telekom and its mobile subsidiary, competitors believe the move will give the group a huge advantage.

A brand and a subsidiary - that's just about all that's left of Hungary's first and still market-leading mobile network. T-Mobile had revenues of HUF263b last year, and a 45.29% share of a market with more than 9m subscribers. Magyar Telekom's decision to merge with its subsidiary must still be endorsed by the two companies' AGMs, but in practice it's a done deal. Deutsche Telekom, which holds 59.21% of Magyar Telekom, has already given the nod to the deal, and Magyar Telekom owns T-Mobile outright. Since there will be no change in ownership, there is little prospect of the Economic Competition Office kicking up a fuss either.

The National Telecommunications Authority is unconcerned. They have said that T-Mobile's GSM licenses can be passed on to its legal successor. The state holds a golden share in Magyar Telekom, but the Ministry for IT and Telecommunications, which exercises that share, has raised no objections.

Westel 900 GSM Mobile Telecoms, which was set up in 1993, has gradually lost its independence. Deutsche Telekom bought a 49% stake in Westel six years after the company's founding, and immediately handed that stake over to Matáv (later to become Magyar Telekom), in exchange for $885m. Westel was rebranded as T-Mobile in 2004 in order to fit into Deutsche Telekom's corporate scheme at a cost of some HUF5.92bn. And now the company is to be merged into its parent.

Competitors might be upset by the merger, but shareholders will do well out of it. Elek Straub, Magyar Telekom's CEO, recently promised that the fusion would bring savings of "several percent" - with just 1% improving results by HUF6bn. The two companies, which have 2.7m fixed-line subscribers and 4m wireless subscribers between them, are below their optimum size. The merger will allow the new company to offer combined fixed-line and wireless services. It would be possible, for example, to follow the US practice of offering free minutes that could be used both from fixed-line phones and mobiles. And the company could give discounts to customers paying for several different services. And there could even be integrated handsets, programmed to use the cheapest available network.

Competitors are less enthusiastic. Vodafone Hungary refused to comment on the merger. Pannon GSM issued a terse statement saying that they would "closely follow the individual arms of the merged company" and that they expected regulators to make sure that T-Group's market dominance would not grow.

Some analysts are less concerned, arguing that fleet-footed competitors could do well if T-Mobile is run by the more bureaucratic, slow-moving Magyar Telekom.
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New beginning

From mid-November, Mihály Bihari, a former nominee for President of the Republic, will head the Constiutional Court. There are hopes that the appointment of Bihari, who once taught numerous opposition politicians, will bring an end to the stalemate over future court nominations.

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Opinion

"Businessmen should stick to business," said Viktor Orban at a village party meeting, and though he didn't say it explicitly, the second sentence was implicit: "...and not govern." This view of leadership is thought-provoking. Because it disqualifies people in certain professions or jobs from taking part in public affairs. Which begs the question: who is suited to run the country?

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Dreams of the city

It's not an edifying competition: the towns in the running are looking for development funds, and age-old tensions between the capital and the provinces are coming to the fore. Seven cities are competing for the title of 2010 European Capital of Culture. The government is set to take a decision next week.

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"Third way" platform

There will be a new party to vote for come 2006. The Hungarian Truth and Life Party (MIÉP), the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) will campaign on a joint platform, MIÉP-Jobbik Third Way. István Csurka's new electoral alliance could take votes away from Fidesz.

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HUF 336billion?

In the worse case, the government will have to repay HUF336bn to National Motorway Rt., but it is trying to withhold some HUF100bn of this.

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