TeliaSonera talking Turkey in Russia

15 Feb 2007

Altimo, the telecoms arm of Russian conglomerate Alfa Group, is close to negotiating a share swap with Swedish-based communications group TeliaSonera involving assets in Turkey, Russia and Sweden, according to reports in the Russian and Turkish press. TeliaSonera is reportedly looking at upping its stakes in Turkey’s largest wireless operator Turkcell and Russia’s third largest cellco MegaFon, and has threatened to walk away if it does not manage to gain control. The Swedish-based firm currently holds 43.9% of MegaFon, while it recently won a court case which gives it the right to increase its stake in Turkcell from 37.1% to 64.3%. Both companies have Alfa Group as a shareholder and Russian newspaper Vedemosti reports that TeliaSonera is looking at striking a deal with Alfa which would see the Scandinavian company up its stakes in both operations, and quoted two sources close to the matter as saying that Altimo would receive a minority stake in TeliaSonera in return. Turkish newspaper Referans quotes TeliaSonera chairman Anders Igel, who says: ‘Our target is to take control of our partnerships in Turkey and Russia. If we are not the dominant partner, I don’t see any reason why we should continue our investments.’

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Turkcell is owned by Turkcell Holding (51%), Cukurova Group (7.46%), Sonera Holding (13.07%), MV Group (5.07%) and others (0.01%), with the remaining 23.39% publicly traded on the New York and Istanbul Stock Exchanges. Turkcell Holding is itself owned by TeliaSonera (47.09%) and Cukurova Holding (52.91%). Cukurova Holding is owned by Cukurova Group (51%) and Alfa Group (49%). This gives TeliaSonera a direct and indirect stake of 37.09%, while Cukurova Group has 21.22% and Alfa has 13.22%.

MegaFon’s main shareholders are TeliaSonera, Telecominvest, Alfa Group and IPOC International Growth Fund. Alfa’s 25.1% stake has been the subject of a long-running legal dispute with IPOC.

The Swedish government is the majority shareholder in TeliaSonera with a holding of 45.3% as of the end of June 2006, whilst the Finnish government has 13.7%; the remainder is distributed. The Swedish government is planning to divest some of its interest in TeliaSonera as part of a wider privatisation programme, although it has yet to decide the size of the tranche up for sale. In November 2006 the new centre-right administration said it was in the process of working out a timetable for offloading state assets.

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