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Telenor moves to block VimpelCom’s merger with Weather

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Norway-based Telenor has written to Russian carrier VimpelCom, in which it holds a 39.6 per cent stake, voicing its opposition to VimpelCom’s proposed merger with Weather Investments, which owns Orascom. In the statement, Telenor spokesman Dag Melgaard said: “We strongly support VimpelCom’s expansion in accordance with the principles agreed at the time the company was created.” But, he added: “In our capacity as a shareholder of Vimpelcom Ltd, we do not believe this transaction makes strategic of financial sense for VimpelCom’s shareholders.”

Telenor’s voting stake in VimpelCom is 36 per cent so, if it is the lone voice in opposition to the move, it will be unable to block the deal. VimpelCom’s supervisory board is scheduled to meet for two days in the near future to vote on final approval for the deal, the Russian firm said.

The deal was first announced in October and, if successful, will create the world’s fifth largest mobile telecommunications carrier by subscriber numbers. The merged entity would boast 174 million mobile subscribers spread over 20 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, with pro forma net operating revenues of $21.5bn.

Under the proposed deal, VimpelCom will pay out $1.8bn in cash to shareholders in Weather, in exchange for ownership of 51.7 per cent of Orascom and 100 per cent of Italian player Wind Telecomunicazioni. VimpelCom shares will also be issued to Weather shareholders representing a 20 per cent economic interest and an 18.5 per cent voting interest in the enlarged VimpelCom group.

When the deal was announced, Alexander Izosimov, CEO of VimpelCom, said:  “It offers our shareholders exposure to attractive growth markets in both Asia and Africa and the opportunity to diversify further our revenue base in terms of geography, currency and market characteristics. It also positions VimpelCom to take full advantage of the significant opportunities that we see in the fast-growing mobile data services market and to leverage the experience that already exists in this area within Wind Italy and other parts of the Weather group.”


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