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Russia's Alfa says relations with Telenor not strained

21 апреля 2011

VimpelCom Ltd. shareholder Alfa Group said Wednesday its relations with rival shareholder Telenor ASA aren't strained, despite its intention to break up an agreement between the two companies following VimpelCom's $6 billion merger with telecom assets of Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.

"We are absolutely satisfied with Telenor as a partner," the chief executive of Altimo, Alfa's telecommunications arm, Alexei Reznikovich, said at a briefing."I don't think the relations between Telenor and Altimo are strained."

Telenor and Altimo have been at loggerheads over VimpelCom's merger with Wind Telecom SpA, which comprises Sawiris's telecom assets in nine countries, including Canada and Pakistan. Through the merger, VimpelCom has become the world's No. 5 mobile operator by subscribers. Telenor has opposed the deal, while Altimo has supported it. Telenor has also sought to protect its right to buy additional shares as part of the deal, both in arbitration proceedings and in a London commercial court.

"Telenor and Altimo voted unanimously at the VimpelCom board meeting on April 14, when the company's new corporate structure was discussed," Reznikovich said."Telenor is a pragmatic company; it had an issue about the merger but has moved on."

Talking about Altimo's motives to sell a voting stake of around 6%, which would break up a shareholder agreement with Telenor, Reznikovich said Altimo is acting purely as an investor to boost VimpelCom's valuation. Telenor has a 25% voting stake in VimpelCom, while Altimo's current voting stake in VimpelCom is 31%.

Shareholders must have equal representation on the board, in accordance with Western practises, Reznikovich said. Altimo and Telenor each currently have three representatives on VimpelCom's board, while another three seats are occupied by independent directors. A breakup of the shareholder agreement would let Wind Telecom get seats on the board.

Reznikovich dismissed any suggestions that Altimo is aiming help Wind get on the board."We aren't supporting anyone's interest, including those of Sawiris."

Reznikovich also said Altimo is talking to Russian and international financial investors, and could also sell the 6% voting stake, of which all is preferred stock, on the open market. The stake could be sold in parts or as a whole, Reznikovich said.

A Telenor spokesman, Dag Melgaard, Monday said Alfa's moves will "lead to a new scenario, which we will have to evaluate before we decide to comment further."

The deal proceeds will "most likely" be spent on reducing Altimo's $1.5 billion debt to OAO Sberbank, Reznikovich said.

Источник: Total Telecom

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