VimpelCom and Telenor embroiled in share dispute

The long running saga over the ownership of operator group VimpelCom has taken another twist after Telenor attempted to take its stake in the company to 42.95 per cent, but has been told by VimpelCom that the share transaction would not be accepted.

Nordic operator group Telenor said that the transaction of shares was being made to honour an existing obligation. It had previously agreed to transfer 71 million VimpelCom preferred shares from another shareholder in the operator, Weather Investments, for $113.6m. The deal would give Telenor the same stake in VimpelCom as Russian telecoms investment firm Altima.

“This is part of a previous agreement and something that we had to do according to the agreement, which was made according to US law,” said Dag Melgaard, communication manager at Telenor Group.

He added that the transaction is governed by US law because the shares in VimpelCom are registered in Bermuda, and Vimpelcom is listed on the NYSE.

However, VimpelCom said in a statement that it is in the “best interests” of the firm not to register the transfer of shares at this time. This is because the Moscow Arbitration Court has issued an order prohibiting the transfer to take place.

“The committee took into account the potential adverse consequences for VimpelCom’s Russian business if the order is considered by the Russian authorities to have been breached with the support and participation of VimpelCom,” the operator said.

Telenor has hit back at those claims, and argued that the competition authorities in Russia do not have any right to block the deal, as it is taking place outside of Russia.

“We therefore think that this is something that Russian authorities definitely have no say in,” said Melgaard. “In our view they are obliged, in US law and in Bermuda’s law, to register the transfer of these shares and we will pursue our right to do this going forwards.”


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