TeliaSonora and Altimo merger invalid: Russian court

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A Moscow court on Thursday declared illegal the agreement between Nordic operator TeliaSonera and Moscow-based Altimo to merge their stakes in mobile phone operators Megafon and Turkcell.

The two companies agreed in November 2009 to merge their stakes in Turkish Turkcell and Megafon, Russia's third largest operator. But an appeal court rejected it on grounds that a foreign investor cannot take control of a strategic company.

"It is disappointing but not really unexpected. As in July, we think that it is not fair, we do not agree with the decision and we intend to appeal," TeliaSonera spokeswoman Cecilia Edstrom told AFP.

Litigation over the deal began after billionnaire Alisher Usmanov, who owns a 39 percent stake in Megafon through TelecomInvest company, objected to the transaction in April.

TelecomInvest argued that the merger contradicts Russian law, which bans foreign companies from taking control of Russia's strategic entreprises.

Altimo also told AFP Thursday that it intended to appeal the court decision.

In July, a Moscow arbitration court ruled against the merger between TeliaSonera and Altimo, which is controlled by Russian banking group Alfa. The case was then referred to a different court, which affirmed the decision.

© 2010 AFP

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