Altimo VP criticizes Telenor over reluctance for equal Russian, foreign investors

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Russian firm says Norwegian telco pursuing own interests to detriment of Vimplecom, shareholders.

A vice president of Altimo, a shareholder of Russian telecom operator VimpelCom Ltd., on Tuesday criticized largest VimpelCom shareholder Telenor ASA over its reluctance to accept equal ownership of VimpelCom between foreign and Russian investors.

The conflict between Norway’s Telenor and Altimo, part of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group, started when Telenor last year opposed VimpelCom’s stock-and-cash acquisition of Wind Telecom, which was controlled by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.

Telenor said Monday it has no plans to sell shares in VimpelCom to achieve equal ownership with Altimo, Reuters reported.

Telenor “is pursuing its own interests in detriment of the interests of VimpelCom and all the shareholders,” said Evgeny Dumalkin, vice president at Altimo.

“It is not the first time that Telenor has shown a similar unconstructive tactic,” he said. Altimo had a similar dispute with Telenor over the entrance to the Ukrainian market in 2004.

He said Telenor is showing disrespect toward the Russian government and the court, which ordered Telenor not to increase its stake in the company. Telenor increased its stake following Altimo’s increase of its stake in VimpelCom.

Mr. Dumalkin also denied statements from Telenor that the Ukrainian investment fund East One owns 6% of VimpelCom shares in the interests of Altimo.

“It is unclear how Telenor’s actions affect the shareholders and VimpelCom,” Telenor Russia spokeswoman Anna Ivanova-Galitsina told Dow Jones.”We are now in constructive talks with the Federal Antimonopoly Service. In fact, we just had a conversation on Friday during which it was said that the main condition (of amicable dispute resolution) should be parity between Altimo and Telenor, not parity between Altimo and the foreign investors.”