Russian holding company Altimo, which indirectly owns a 13.2% stake in Turkish mobile phone giant Turkcell, has indicated that it intends to seize a further 13.7% stake in the company if Cukurova Holding fails to make good on its outstanding USD1.45 billion debt by early-March. According to Bloomberg Mustafa Kiral, vice president for mergers and acquisitions at Altimo (the telecoms investment firm controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group) claims that the potential seizure is permitted by a decision in September 2011 by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal. For its part, Istanbul-based Cukurova insists that the court order does not allow Altimo to take the shares.
TeleGeography notes that the ongoing ownership issues relating to Turkcell date back to 2005, when Cukurova Holding reneged on an exclusivity agreement with TeliaSonera to offer shares to Alfa for a higher price – a deal which was later annulled. Subsequent years have seen the dispute rumble on, with legal appeals and counter appeals muddying the waters. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Turkcell is owned by Turkcell Holding (51.00%), Sonera Holding (part of Sweden’s TeliaSonera, 13.07%), MV Group (2.32%), Cukurova Holding (0.05%) and others (0.01%), with the remaining 33.55% publicly traded on the New York and Istanbul Stock Exchanges. Turkcell Holding is itself owned by TeliaSonera (47.09%, giving it a 37.09% overall stake) and Cukurova Holding (52.91%, for a 26.98% overall interest). Altimo/Alfa secured its indirect stake in Turkcell in November 2009 when TeliaSonera and Alfa Group agreed to combine their respective holdings in Turkcell and MegaFon of Russia (in which the Swedish firm owns 43.8% and Alfa owns 25.1%).