Russian cellco Vimpelcom has announced that its Kazakhstan subsidiary KaR-Tel has signed a management agreement with Sky Mobile in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. Sky offers GSM services under the banner Bitel and was Kyrgyzstan’s leading cellco by subscribers at the end of 2007, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, with 1.13 million customers and a 59% market share. Pursuant to the agreement, KaR-Tel will exclusively assist in the operation and management of Sky ’s network and the provision of products and services in Kyrgyzstan.
After a five-year ownership dispute involving several large Russian and Kazakh firms, Vimpelcom claims that Sky Mobile is now 100%-owned by Crowell Investments, which also owns 50% less one share of KaR-Tel’s parent company, Limnotex Development. Vimpelcom indirectly owns the remaining 50% plus one share of Limnotex. In February 2008, Vimpelcom lent Crowell USD350 million for 18 months at an interest rate of 10% per annum. As collateral, Crowell granted Vimpelcom a security interest over 25% of the shares of Limnotex, and two call options over the entire issued share capital of Sky Mobile. The ownership of Sky Mobile is still disputed by Russian group Mobile TeleSystems (MTS).