Rostelecom sniffing around majority stake in NTC; Vnesheconombank not selling 10% stake in Rostelecom

2 Nov 2010

Russian long-distance carrier Rostelecom has reportedly entered into negotiations to acquire a 51.8% stake in the country’s largest cable TV provider, National Telecommunications (NTC), according to business daily Vedomosti. The stake, which currently belongs to the National Media Group (NMG) is thought to be worth around USD1.5 billion. According to an investment banker familiar with the deal, NMG is keen to receive at least the USD1.5 billion outlay it paid the Nafta Moskva investment firm for the stake in 2008. Vedomosti goes on to quote an unnamed Moscow telecoms company manager who confirmed that NMG is in the midst of negotiating the sale with Rostelecom. Rostelecom declined to comment on the matter. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, NTC’s cable network passes at least 5.1 million households, claiming more than 4.5 million subscriptions to its services in Moscow, Moscow Region, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk. Alongside its analogue and digital TV services, NTC also offers cable broadband and fixed telephony services. The company reported 300,000 broadband subscribers as at end-2009.

In other news, Russian Development Bank Vnesheconombank has announced that, contrary to reports, it is not planning to sell its own 10% stake in Rostelecom. At a recent press briefing, Vladimir Dmitriyev, head of Vnesheconombank commented: ‘We have an option agreement with Svyazinvest, but we are not discussing the sale’. In June 2010 Valery Miroshnikov, deputy general director of the Deposit Insurance Agency confirmed that the option exists for state-backed telecoms holding company Svyazinvest to buy back the full 40% stake in Rostelecom that the Development Bank presently owns; 10% of Rostelecom is held directly by Vnesheconombank, with the remaining 30% stake under the control of Vnesheconombank’s trust management. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Svyazinvest holds 38.01% of the share capital of Rostelecom, while domestic investors hold 56.07%, foreign investors have 0.02% and employees hold 5.90%. Svyazinvest controls company direction, with a 50.66% majority in voting shares.