Telenor faces fresh fight for VimpelCom

Russia’s competition authority is challenging Telenor’s acquisition of a leading stake in domestic carrier VimpelCom, filing a claim in Moscow’s commercial court against the move. 

The Federal Antimonopoly Service of the Russian Federation (FAS) is seeking to invalidate the sale of VimpelCom shares to Telenor by Weather Investments in February, claiming the deal violates Russia’s Strategic Investment Law. FAS is also seeking the return of the shares to Weather Investments, and the formation of a new shareholder’s agreement between Telenor, VimpelCom and Altimo – the shareholder Telenor battled with over VimpelCom voting rights.
Telenor also believes FAS is seeking to block moves to change the governing body of VimpelCom, however the telco notes it has received no official word from the Russian authority on the matter. Telenor spokesman Dag Melgaard says the firm has provided all the information requested by FAS, and so has complied with the local investment laws.
“There has not been any change in control in VimpelCom, nor is there any agreement between Telenor and Weather Investments concerning control of VimpelCom,” Melgaard states, adding. “We are open to a dialogue with the FAS, but we will defend Telenor’s position using all available remedies under applicable law and treaties.”
The court action relates to Telenor’s acquisition of 234 million preferred VimpelCom shares from Weather Investments in February. The $374.4 million (€284 million) deal brought the curtain down on a long-running dispute with Altimo by taking Telenor’s voting rights in VimpelCom to 36.36%.
A subsequent $715 million acquisition of common VimpelCom shares means Telenor’s voting rights now stand at 39.51%.