Russian mobile operator MTS says it has no plans to increase its shareholding in its Belarusian joint venture MTS Belarus, writes online news portal E-belarus. MTS president Leonid Melamed made the comment at the press conference in Minsk last week. ‘We are satisfied with our cooperation, and we are not going to force changes in our relationships’, he said. MTS Belarus is currently owned by state-owned company Intercity Communications (51%), with MTS holding the remaining 49%. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, the Russian operator valued MTS Belarus at USD700 million in March 2006 and said it was considering offering USD350 million for Intercity’s interest in the venture. Although the government is expected to sell Intercity’s controlling share in 2007 (when the process of liberalisation begins), President Lukashenko has muddied the water by hinting that Belarus will not give up control of any its cellular assets in the country, including MTS.
MTS Belarus had 3.473 million customers at the end of June, a market share of 54%. At the same date its network covered 81.7% of the country’s territory inhabited by 93% of the population in 17,780 built-up areas. MTS’s network comprises 2,760 base stations and 27,000 transmitters mounted in 785 built-up areas. The company has recorded total net profit of USD836 million in the last five years, while investments have exceeded USD447 million.