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Alfa and Telenor would eye developing markets

11 декабря 2009

A proposed mobile phone venture between Russia’s Alfa group and Norway’s Telenor would look at expanding in Asia and Africa, according to one of its prospective shareholders.

Alexey Reznikovich, the head of Altimo, Alfa’s telecommunications investment arm, said the new operator would look at opportunities in developing markets, including Indonesia and Nigeria.

The proposed entity should consider merging with a mobile company in emerging markets, he said.

Altimo has struck a deal with Telenor, the Norwegian mobile operator, to form a venture that will control businesses in Russia and the Ukraine in a bid to end a bitter feud between the two companies.

Telenor and Altimo are leading shareholders in VimpelCom, Russia’s second-largest mobile operator, and Kyivstar, Ukraine’s largest wireless provider, but the two investors have had big differences over strategy.

In October, Telenor and Altimo outlined plans to combine their stakes in VimpelCom and Kyivstar in a new vehicle that is scheduled to list in New York early next year.

Altimo will hold 43.9 per cent of the voting shares in the company, which could be valued at more than $23bn, and Telenor will have 35.4 per cent.

Altimo has 44 per cent of the voting shares in VimpelCom and Telenor has 29.9 per cent. Telenor owns 56.5 per cent of Kyivstar and Altimo has 43.5 per cent.

VimpelCom already has mobile operations in Cambodia and Vietnam, and Mr Reznikovich said the New York-listed company should look to increase its presence in Asia by expanding into countries including Indonesia and Thailand.

He added that the company should also consider African countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia. “I believe the best approach towards Africa could be a potential merger or acquisition with one of the large players in the African market,” he said.

MTN, Africa’s largest wireless company, is looking at overseas expansion. In September, the South African group abandoned merger talks with Bharti Airtel, the Indian operator.

Mr Reznikovich said the venture with Telenor included a dispute resolution mechanism to resolve differences over expansion strategy.

The risk for Telenor is that the new company expands into markets where the Norwegian mobile operator is already present, such as Thailand.

Mr Reznikovich also said that Altimo would sell its telecoms investments when they stopped growing in five years or more. “As soon as the telecoms market is saturated and there is no growth, we will exit,” he said. Altimo’s other mobile assets include minority stakes in Turkcell, Turkey’s leading mobile operator, and MegaFon, Russia’s third-largest operator.

Источник: Financial Times

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