Vimpelcom shareholders okay disputed Wind Telecom purchase

17th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Shareholders of Russia's Vimpelcom approved Thursday a 6.5-billion-dollar deal to buy Wind Telecom, sending another blow to Norway's Telenor, a major Vimpelcom shareholder which staunchly opposes the deal.

"The approval of this transformative combination with Wind Telecom by our shareholders will lead to the creation a new global telecom player with over 173 million mobile subscribers," Vimpel chief executive Alexander Izosimov said in a statement.

Vimpelcom's plans to buy Wind Telecom -- which holds 51.7 percent of operator Orascom and all of Italian mobile operator Wind Telecomunicazioni -- have embittered relations between Telenor and Vimpelcom's other major shareholder Altimo, the telecoms arm of Russian giant Alfa.

The Norwegian company is Vimpelcom's second largest shareholder and has repeatedly said it opposed the deal, arguing that it does not make strategic or financial sense.

"Telenor acknowledges that a majority of the shareholders, as expected, have decided to carry out the acquisition," it said in a statement.

Altimo, meanwhile, is in favour of the deal, which would create the world's sixth-largest mobile telecoms operator.

Altimo and Telenor had a comparable stake in Vimpelcom, with 44.7 and 39.6 percent of voting rights respectively, with the rest of voting rights in the hands of independent shareholders.

At an extraordinary general assembly held in Amsterdam Thursday, close to 40 percent of those independent shareholders voted in favour of the purchase, enough to tip the balance in favour of Altimo.

Telenor, which in January launched legal action in a bid to keep its Vimpelcom stake intact, said Wednesday it had no intentions of selling its stake in the Russian company.

"Our commitment to Vimpelcom is a long-term one," spokesman Dag Melgaard told AFP.

If the London Court of International Arbitration turns down Telenor's request to get the pre-emptive rights it believes it is entitled to, the Norwegian firm would become the third largest shareholder in Vimpelcom in terms of voting rights when the deal goes through.

It would hold 25 percent of voting rights, while Altimo would have 31 percent and Egyptian mogul Naguib Sawiris, who owns Wind Telecom, would get 30.6 percent of voting rights.

© 2011 AFP

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