Is it okay for the Hungarian state to acquire Vodafone?

British mobile phone giant Vodafone wants to sell its business operations in Hungary. It has agreed to sell its Hungarian unit to Hungarian holding company 4iG and the Hungarian state holding company Corvinus Zrt for just under 1.8 billion euros. This will give the state a 49 percent stake in the company. Commentators discuss the consequences for the country.

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Financial Times (GB) /

Orbán is expanding his power

The Financial Times sees a dangerous trend:

“For Orbán, repatriation of ownership is part of a broader effort to extend his political dominance into the commercial sphere - and to create a socio-economic system that endures even if Fidesz loses power. Part of that has involved channelling funds and opportunities to loyalists, in some cases childhood friends of the premier. A state-linked business elite of 'Orbán oligarchs' has emerged, more akin to models in ex-Soviet republics but inside the EU.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Nothing new

Magyar Nemzet is not particularly concerned:

“State ownership - even majority ownership that allows control - is not uncommon in cross-border European telecom groups. In Germany, the federal government has a 14.5 percent share in Deutsche Telekom AG and indirectly another 17.4 percent through the state bank KfW. This means that the federal government has a 31.9 percent stake in the company. And an Austrian state holding company owns a 28.42 percent stake in Telekom Austria. In the case of Telenor, meanwhile, the Norwegian state owns 54 percent of the company.”

Népszava (HU) /

At the expense of the poor

For Népszava, such a deal is shameful in these times of crisis:

“The state budget lives precisely on loans - on the national debt - and has no money left for health care or education. ... Thousands will have no money for heating, food or medicine this winter. The country is heading for a massive social disaster. Under such circumstances, it's a crime not to spend billions to save the people. ... And crimes must sooner or later be answered for, if not in court then in higher forums.”