Altimo and Telenor consider $4bn asset swap

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Altimo, the Russian telecommunications investment company, and Telenor, the Norwegian mobile phone company, are considering a $4bn asset swap to bring an end to a festering dispute between the two.

Alexey Reznikovich, Altimo’s chief executive, told the Financial Times on Thursday that he had sent Telenor a letter in the previous week suggesting the exchange.

Telenor confirmed on Thursday that it was prepared to consider such a deal.

Both companies own stakes in Vimpel Communications, Russia’s second-largest mobile phone company, and Kyivstar, Ukraine’s largest, but have been unable to agree on strategy.

Altimo has suggested a straight swap of its 43.5 per cent stake in Kyivstar for Telenor’s 26.6 per cent stake in Vimpelcom.

However, it was also prepared to lose Vimpelcom and control Kyivstar instead, Mr Reznikovich said.

“Either they can have Vimpelcom or we can,” he said. He added that he had not yet received a reply to his offer.

Vimpelcom has a market capitalisation of about $16bn, indicating Telenor’s stake is worth just over $4bn.

While Kyivstar is unlisted, Mr Reznikovich estimated that Telenor’s 56.5 per cent stake in the company was worth “around the same”.

Telenor said on Thursday: “If the letter means they seriously want to negotiate a swap, we are willing to sit down and discuss a constructive proposal.”

The latest disagreement between the companies was over the Ukrainian operations.

Telenor suggested to Altimo that Kyivstar and Vimpelcom be merged into one operation but Altimo refused. They also clashed over the purchase of a second operation in the Ukraine.

The letter also brings an end to Mr Reznikovich’s dream of merging Altimo and Telenor, which is 54 per cent owned by the Norwegian government.

“The Norwegian government would not allow it,” he said. “For us it was either combine or split.”

Altimo is the telecommunications investment arm of Alfa Group, which is controlled by the Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman.

Alfa and Altimo have been embroiled in numerous disputes with the other shareholders of the various telecommunications companies in which they hold stakes.

Altimo owns 25 per cent of Megafon, another Russian telecoms company, but clashed with another company, IPOC, over which had the right to own the Megafon stake.

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