State-owned conglomerate Svyazinvest is reportedly weighing up a bid to acquire a controlling interest in MegaFon, Russia’s third largest cellco by subscribers, The Moscow Times reports. The daily cites Communications and IT Minister Igor Shchyogolev as saying that Svyazinvest is currently holding talks with Alisher Usmanov to purchase the oligarch’s 31.1% stake in the cellco. Shchyogolev added that as a state-controlled entity it would require a controlling stake in MegaFon, which would entail additional share purchases from either TeliaSonera (which has a 35.6% stake) or Alfa Group (25.1%). However, both companies have distanced themselves from a sale, saying that they are not planning to reduce their stakes in MegaFon for the foreseeable future. As reported by CommsUpdate on 9 October 2009, Svyazinvest is restructuring its telecoms holdings, planning to combine its seven regional fixed line subsidiaries and long-distance specialist Rostelecom into a single company which will provide fixed line telephony, broadband and mobile services across the whole country. To achieve its aim of providing a full range of telecoms services nationwide, the operator revealed that it would need to strengthen its mobile assets, targeting a takeover of one of the country’s three largest cellcos, Mobile TeleSystems, Vimpelcom and MegaFon.
Meanwhile the Ministry of IT and Communications (MinSvyaz) has voiced its opposition to proposed international mergers between Vimpelcom and Kyivstar and MegaFon and Turkcell.