Norwegian telecoms group Telenor’s Russian unit is being sued for USD3.8 billion in a Siberian court by a minority shareholder in Russian mobile network operator Vimpelcom. It follows a nearly identical claim for USD1 billion made by Eco Telecom, part of Russia’s Alfa Group, in March. A Telenor news release said ‘The lawsuit’s claims against Telenor are that Telenor harmed Vimpelcom by preventing Vimpelcom from purchasing [Ukranian mobile operator] Kyivstar and delaying Vimpelcom’s purchase of [another GSM operator] Ukrainian Radio Systems’. The latest suit was filed by Farimex Products, a British Virgin Islands company, but court records did not reveal who owns the company. Farimex only owns shares worth USD800,000 making it hard to see how it can justify claiming USD3.8 billion in damages.
In August 2007 Telenor won an arbitration case in a New York court, which ordered Alfa Group to either sell its 43.5% share in Kyivstar or reduce stakes in certain other competing operators. Alfa chose to comply with the latter option by reducing its minority stake in Turkey’s Turkcell (the majority owner of Ukrainian cellco Astelit), and agreeing to sell its entire stake in WiMAX operator Ukrainian High Technologies (aka Alternet). Telenor owns 56.5% of Kyivstar, and holds 33.6% of the common stock of Vimpelcom, which is 37% owned by Alfa through its telecoms arm Altimo.