TeliaSonera mounts legal challenge over Turkcell ownership

The simmering, decade-long battle for ownership of Turkcell has burst into the open with TeliaSonera, which has a 37 per cent shareholding in the operator, taking legal action against the chairman of the Turkish company. The Scandinavian-based TeliaSonera, which attempted to acquire a majority stake in Turkcell in 2005, claims that the chairman, Colin Williams, has not fulfilled his obligation to act as an independent board member of Turkcell, and was breaking the law.

The long-standing complaint is that TeliaSonera has called upon Turkcell, Turkey's largest wireless operator by subscribers, to increase the number of independent board members so that the company can comply with the requirements set down by the Turkish Capital Markets Board and the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

"Such actions have, however, been blocked by Cukurova [a major shareholder] and the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Colin Williams," said TeliaSonera in a statement to Reuters.

At the heart of this dispute is that, while TeliaSonera is the main shareholder in Turkcell with an effective 37.1 percent stake, a special purpose company--Turkcell Holding, controlled by a Cukurova-Altimo partnership--controls 51 per cent of the shares. TeliaSonera also has a shareholding in Turkcell Holdings, but only 47 per cent.

Cecilia Edström, vice preident and communications head for TeliaSonera, said that following the law was a minimum requirement for a Chairman of a major listed international company.

"It is not appropriate for the Turkcell management to make any comment on the statements made today by our shareholders. These statements are a continuation of the issues between shareholders," Turkcell said in a statement, according to Reuters.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Cellular News article

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