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Vimpelcom board backs revised Sawiris deal

Vimpelcom on Monday said its board had approved a revised deal for Egyptian magnate Naguib Sawiris’ telecom assets that will create the world’s sixth-largest mobile phone carrier by number of subscribers.

The Norwegian-Russian joint venture’s supervisory board approved the deal despite continued resistance from Telenor, the Norwegian firm which argues that the acquisition does not make strategic or financial sense.

In a six to three vote, the board gave final approval to a deal that would see Vimpelcom acquire 51.7 percent of Egypt’s Orascom Telecom and 100 percent of Italy’s Wind.

The deal envisions Vimpelcom issuing 325.6 million new common shares and 305.0 million convertible shares, and also paying Sawiris $1.495 billion (1.125 billion euros) in cash.

The deal must also be approved by the company’s shareholders, whose general meeting has been scheduled for March 17, the company said in a statement.

“Vimpelcom’s supervisory board is pleased to approve this transaction. This combination will create a top-tier global telecoms company and should drive significant value for all our shareholders,” supervisory board chairman Jo Lunder said in the statement.

“While we acknowledge Telenor’s divergent view, we believe that the majority of our shareholders recognise the strategic and financial merits of this transaction.

“In the end, as it should be with a public company, it will be the special general meeting of shareholders that will make the final determination,” said Lunder.

Monday’s announcement revises the terms of a deal initially approved by the board on December 20, which was also opposed by Telenor.