Telenor hearing adjourned until March

30 Sep 2009

Norwegian firm Telenor has announced that the Federal Arbitrazh (Business) Court of Tyumen, Siberia has adjourned its appeal of a USD1.7 billion damages claim for a third time. In April 2008 Farimex, a minority shareholder in Vimpelcom, initiated a lawsuit against Telenor accusing the company of having caused losses to Vimpelcom shareholders by delaying its entry into Ukraine’s mobile market, and on 20 February 2009 a court in Omsk held Telenor liable for USD1.7 billion, which the Norwegian group refused to pay, leading to the seizure of its stake in the Russian cellco. Telenor’s appeal of the ruling was originally scheduled to be heard in Tyumen on 26 May 2009, but was first adjourned until 10 June on the grounds that third parties had not been duly notified, and then again to 30 September. At the most recent hearing, Farimex filed a motion requesting that the court delay the appeal yet again until a case brought by Telenor against Farimex has been heard, the lawsuit alleges that Farimex is acting on behalf of the Alfa Group, which owns a 37% equity share of Vimpelcom (with 44% voting rights). The court granted the motion, postponing the hearing until 24 March 2010.

In August 2009 the Russian bailiff service delayed the sale of Telenor’s stake in Vimpelcom, announcing that it needed to take more time to study the court documents pertaining to the seizure and subsequent sale of the shares. The announcement gave Telenor hope that it might retain its stake post-appeal, hope which has again diminished with the six-month delay to proceedings.