Report: VimpelCom board to meet on Sawiris deal

The board of Russian mobile operator VimpelCom will meet Sunday to discuss new terms for a merger with Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris' telecom assets, according to multiple reports.

The reports, in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Reuters, cited unnamed sources familiar with the situation, and said that VimpelCom's main shareholders, Norway's Telenor and Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group, will meet in Amsterdam to try and hammer out the final terms, which could potentially create the world's fifth-largest mobile company by subscribers. Sawiris owns 51.7 per cent of Egyptian-based mobile group Orascom Telecom.

A deal for the merger hit a major roadblock in December when Telenor, VimpelCom's largest shareholder, rejected a $6.8 billion (€5.08 billion) proposal. The proposed plan would have given Sawiris' Wind Telecom, previously known as Weather Investments, three board seats, $1.8 billion in cash and 326 million common shares in VimpelCom, which is currently worth $5 billion. After Telenor rejected the original terms, VimpelCom CEO Alexander Izosimov was charged with finding a way forward.

"Telenor issued a statement ahead of VimpelCom's previous board meeting where they said they opposed the offer," an unnamed source told Reuters. "Unless we see another statement, we can take it for granted that Telenor has not changed its view."

According to Reuters, Telenor has informed VimpelCom's management and independent board members of its stance on the deal. However, according to a separate Bloomberg report, a deal could still be worked out even if Telenor's three directors vote against it.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

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