BELGIUM – The status of Belgacom’s pension fund is back in the news following comments from a government minister about the possible privatisation of the telecoms operator.

According to Belgian regional press reports, public enterprise minister Johan Vande Lanotte said that he was aware that the privatisation of Belgacom was being discussed – and that he had taken on board the fact that there was demand for the Belgian state to take on the pension fund.

There has been speculation that the government is considering an initial public offering of Belgacom for some time. It was resurrected earlier this year when prime minister Guy Verhofstadt dropped hints that it was being more formally discussed.

Analysts have warned, however, that the government may have to take on the company’s 3.6 billion-euro pension fund if they intend to attract investors.

In July the fund, Belgium’s largest, announced a negative return of 7.5% on its investments in 2002.

A spokesman for Belgacom said that there were no new developments as far as he was aware, and that it was an issue for the shareholders to discuss.