Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman could increase his indirect ownership of Turkish mobile leader Turkcell after fellow shareholder Cukurova failed to declare its intent to buy a disputed 13.2% stake by a court deadline, a source close to the matter said yesterday, as cited by Reuters. Russian conglomerate Alfa Group, part of Fridman’s business empire, has been locked in a decade-long dispute for control of Turkcell with Cukurova, run by Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, Turkcell’s founder and one of Turkey’s richest men. TeleGeography says that Fridman (a dual Russian/Israeli citizen) is chairman of both the Alfa Group Consortium supervisory board and Luxembourg-based investment group LetterOne Holding (affiliated but not directly linked to Alfa Group), and is also a director at both multinational telecoms group VimpelCom (a subsidiary of LetterOne’s L1 Technology division) and Alfa Bank (part of Alfa Group) whilst the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) lists Fridman as a beneficial shareholder of VimpelCom.
A London tribunal had set a deadline of 18 November for Cukurova to choose to either buy Fridman’s indirect Turkcell shares for USD2.7 billion or sell its own stake to Fridman for USD2.8 billion, Reuters continued. ‘Now in line with the court decision, the option of buying has moved to Alfa,’ the source said, declining to be named because none of the parties involved had yet commented on the matter. Fridman indirectly controls 13.2% of Turkcell, while Karamehmet indirectly holds 13.8%; Sweden’s Telia Company claims a 37% share. The anonymous source added that under the terms of the London tribunal ruling, Alfa or its affiliates have the right to buy Cukurova’s Turkcell stake by a deadline of 28 November.
Earlier this month Russian investor VTB Group said it had reached an agreement for joint investment in Turkcell with Alfa Group.