MTS issues warning to would-be suitors of Sky Mobile

2 Jul 2007

Russian cellco Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) has warned its rival Vimpelcom and its shareholder, Norwegian group Telenor, against buying Sky Mobile, a Kyrgyz cellco, whose assets it disputes in court. MTS has sent letters to Vimpelcom and Telenor saying it may take legal action against whoever buys Sky Mobile, owned by billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s telecoms arm Altimo. Altimo is also the single biggest investor in Vimpelcom, owning a 43.8% stake. MTS has filed a lawsuit against Altimo for at least USD150 million over alleged improprieties concerning the Bitel takeover, but Altimo denies any wrongdoing. Neither Telenor nor Altimo had any comment, while Vimplecom CEO Alexander Izosimov called the affair ‘a soap opera’ with ‘Altimo saying one thing, MTS saying something totally different.’ He added that Kyrgyzstan would be an interesting market to enter, although his firm would not wish to get bogged down in litigation. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Sky Mobile was the leading Kyrgyz cellco at the end of March 2007, with an estimated 775,000 subscribers.