MTS provider may lose 600 mln dlrs in Turkmenistan: company

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Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Russia's largest mobile phone company, said Wednesday it could lose 585 million dollars over the next five years as a result of a dispute with the isolated Central Asian state of Turkmenistan.

Earlier this week, MTS said it had been notified that its license would be suspended for a month effective Tuesday.

"In our financials, the losses will amount to 160 million (dollars), or 585 (million dollars) taking into account an expected profit over the next five years," company chief executive Mikhail Shamolin told reporters in comments confirmed by a spokeswoman.

The company said it had not received an explanation from the Turkmen government but noted that the move had come came amid Turkmen efforts to win a 50-percent stake in its subsidiary MTS-Turkmenistan.

The company's departure may leave the isolated ex-Soviet republic without proper mobile communications for a month.

Turkmenistan's foreign ministry said in a statement earlier Wednesday that the Russian company had been ordered to suspend its operations due to the expiration of a five-year contract, defending the decision by Turkmen authorities as "absolutely rightful and legally justified."

The foreign ministry denied its population of five million was experiencing communication difficulties, saying local mobile providers had all the necessary equipment, personnel and infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted mobile coverage.

MTS has been present in Turkmenistan since 2005, also having business outside Russia in Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia and Belarus.

© 2010 AFP

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