Access Telecommunications exercises call option for 11% of Comstar shares

13 Dec 2007

Access Telecommunications Cooperatief (previously known as 2711 Centerville Cooperatief), a Russian company affiliated with US-based tycoon Len Blavatnik, has exercised a call option to purchase 46.232 million Comstar United TeleSystems (Comstar UTS) shares from MGTS Finance for USD6.97 per share. The transaction, worth a total cash consideration of USD322.2 million, and representing 11.06% of Comstar’s total number of issued and outstanding shares, is expected to be completed by 17 December. The call option was originally issued by Comstar subsidiary MGTS Finance to 2711 Centerville Cooperatief in part payment for the acquisition of a 25%-plus-one-share stake in Russia’s largest fixed line investment group, state-controlled Svyazinvest, in December 2006. Access Telecommunications retains a put option to sell the shares back to MGTS Finance at any time over the next 24 months. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Comstar UTS was formed from the merger of three fixed line operators — ZAO Comstar, MTU-Inform and Telmos — in May 2004. At the end of 2005 main shareholder AFK Sistema reorganised its telephony assets, bringing another of its operators — Moscow City Telephone Network (MGTS) — under the Comstar umbrella. The enlarged entity now claims to be the leading non-government-owned telco in Russia’s wireline sector and is the largest fixed line and broadband operator in the Moscow region. Comstar UTS is owned by Sistema (51%) and MGTS (14%), with the remaining 35% publicly floated.