Turkcell's controlling shareholder set to retake stake

Turkcell's future ownership looks set to be decided this week, after its majority shareholder agreed a finance deal to end a seven-year ownership dispute.

Turkish company Cukurova agreed terms to fund a recovery of its controlling 13.8 per cent stake in the country's incumbent telecoms operator from Altimo, the telecoms investment arm of Russian company Alfa Group, which took control of the stake when Cukurova defaulted on a loan, Reuters reported.

The Turkcell stake had been offered as collateral on the defaulted Cukurova loan, the Financial Times explained.

An Altimo source told Reuters that Cukurova has secured financing from Turkish state-owned bank Ziraat Bank to cover the $1.6 billion (€1.1 billion) deemed necessary by a court for it to reclaim its holding. The source said Altimo expected payment sometime this week, while a separate source told Reuters the transaction will happen on July 31.

The agreement is set to end a seven-year dispute between Cukurova and Altimo over ownership of Turkcell that Reuters noted has stymied the operator's decision-making processes and ability to pay dividends. The deal also means Turkcell would remain wholly owned by Turkish investors--something Reuters said the government is keen to see happen.

Cukurova's finance package was agreed after Turkey's government and regulators rejected a private funding deal five days before a deadline for payment to Altimo expired, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A separate legal battle between Cukurova owner Mehmet Emin Karamehmet and TeliaSonera--another Turkcell shareholder--remains in play, the Journal noted. Karamehmet owes the Swedish-headquartered operator $1 billion, it reported.

Turkcell recently took part in a test of 3-Carrier HSDPA alongside Ericsson and Qualcomm that achieved a data rate of 63 Mbps in the downlink by utilising three 5 MHz carriers in the 2.1 GHz band on Turkcell's commercial WCDMA network.

Ericsson said it plans to include the functionality in a forthcoming software release.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Financial Times article (sub req)
- see this Wall Street Journal article

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