The CEO of VimpelCom, Russia’s second largest mobile operator, has revealed his company may purchase Kyrgyz GSM licence holder Sky Mobile from Altimo, part of the Alfa Group. Altimo, a 32.9% shareholder in VimpelCom, is likely to make a formal offer to VimpelCom to purchase the Kyrgyz company; Sky Mobile holds a GSM licence but is not operational.
Altimo acquired Sky Mobile in late June 2006. At the start of the following month Bitel, the company from which Sky Mobile was spun off and which retains ownership of a GSM network, said that it decided to sell its infrastructure to Sky Mobile, but to date no agreement has yet been sealed. The machiavellian sale of the company’s licence and network is a result of a legal challenge on Bitel’s ownership made by Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) of Russia. MTS purchased a 51% stake in Bitel for USD150 million in late 2005, but the purchase was subsequently challenged by little-known Russian company Rezervspetsmet, which reportedly has links to Altimo. As it stands, Rezervspetsmet has operating control over Bitel.