Russia's MTS bids US$1bn for regional operator

Russia's #1 mobile operator, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), has offered US$1 billion to acquire 97 per cent of regional operator Smarts, which operates in the Volga region in central Russia, and is the country's seventh-largest cell phone operator with over four million subscribers.

Of particular interest to MTS would be Smarts' presence in the Penza region, the only territory in Russia that is not covered by the MTS network, and where Smarts is the dominant cell phone provider.

However, Smarts has been, unofficially, open to offers for some years, and last December Russia's #2 mobile operator, Vimelcom, was reported to have offered US$750 million--which was declined.

Smarts is owned by a range of regional Russian mobile phone service providers including Astrakhan-GSM, Volgograd-GSM and Orenburg-GSM.

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