Norway's Telenor opposes Vimpelcom's purchase of Weather

20th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Norwegian telecoms group Telenor said Monday it did not support the purchase by its Russian joint venture Vimpelcom of Egypt's Weather, which would create the world's fifth largest mobile operator.

Telenor, which has three out of nine seats on Vimpelcom's board and holds 39.6 percent of the Russian company's stock, can not bloc the transaction on its own.

"Telenor has determined that the proposed acquisition by Vimpelcom of Weather Investments is not in the best interests of Vimpelcom shareholders and therefore does not intend to support the transaction," the Norwegian firm said in a statement.

"We do not believe this transaction makes strategic or financial sense for Vimpelcom's shareholders," Telenor spokesman Dag Melgaard added.

The rest of Vimpelcom is owned by Mikhail Fridman's Russian banking group Alfa Group, which holds 39.1 percent, and other minority shareholders.

In October, Vimpelcom said it signed a 6.5-billion-dollar (4.9-billion-euro) deal with Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris' Weather Investments.

The deal included Vimpelcom's acquisition of all of Italian mobile operator Wind and of a majority in Egypt's Orascom Telecom from Weather, which would create an industry giant with 174 million customers.

Alexander Izosimov, chief executive officer of Vimpelcom, at the time described the deal as "transformational" for the company.

"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."

The deal has already faced problems in Algeria, where the government wants to nationalise Djeezy, which is owned by Orascom Telecom.

Telenor's announcement comes a year after a five-year battle with Alfa Group over Vimplecom, which ended last October with a new agreement on the functioning of their joint venture.

© 2010 AFP

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