TeliaSonera, Telenor set for merger?

The ongoing disputes between Nordic operators TeliaSonera and Telenor and Russian conglomerate Altimo continue to drag on, with speculation rising that TeliaSonera and Telenor could merge to better fight their corners.

Since the Swedish government put its 45.3 per cent stake in TeliaSonera up for sale in December, Telenor has been closely linked as an interested party.’s sister publication, Global Mobile Daily, notes that a merger of the two operators would not only increase the companies’ presences in the Nordics, Eastern Europe and Asia, but would provide increased legal muscle and a much larger war chest to better tackle Altimo.

The long-running dispute between Altimo TeliaSonera looked like it might be coming to a close in late January, when the International Chamber of Commerce ruled that a binding share purchase agreement was concluded between TeliaSonera and Turkish conglomerate Cukurova in 2005.

TeliaSonera claimed in 2005 that it had been shouldered out of a deal to buy a stake in Turkish operator Turkcell, from Cukurova. Altimo – at the time known as Alfa – is understood to have offered more cash, causing Cukurova to renege on its deal with TeliaSonera.

Altimo has also been engaged in legal wrangling with Telenor, since Altimo encouraged VimpelCom to acquire another cellco, Ukrainian Radio Systems (URS) in 2005. Telenor maintains URS is a bad investment and causes the Nordic operator a conflict of interest – Telenor holds a stake in another Ukrainian operator, Kyivstar – as does Altimo.

Telenor owns 29.9 per cent of VimpelCom and 56.5 per cent of Kyivstar while Altimo owns 32.9 per cent of VimpelCom and 43.5 per cent of Kyivstar.

But throwing more confusion into the mix, Swedish daily paper Dagens Nyheter, said Wednesday that Altimo could also be interested in buying up a stake in TeliaSonera, potentially giving it greater control over Turkcell.

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