Russian long-distance operator Rostelecom has reportedly confirmed plans to acquire a 21.8% stake in country’s largest cable TV provider, National Telecommunications (NTC). Citing company documents, Vedomosti reports that Rostelecom will offer USD288.38 million for the stake. The shareholders in question are believed to be Surgutneftgas (10%), Raybrook (10%) and National Media Group (1.8%). In addition, two of Rostelecom’s fellow Svyazinvest subsidiaries, Uralsvyazinform and North-West Telecom (NWT), are each preparing to purchase a 25% stake in NTC, with main shareholder National Media Group’s (NMG) 51.8% stake likely to be targeted. TeleGeography notes that in November 2010 it was reported that Rostelecom had entered into negotiations to acquire a 51.8% stake in NTC. At the time NMG was keen to receive at least the USD1.5 billion outlay it paid the Nafta Moskva investment firm for the stake in 2008. The Vedomosti report goes on to say that parent company Svyazinvest intends to merge all three stakes in March, as part of its ‘mega regional merger’. This move would then trigger a mandatory share offer to NTC’s remaining minority stakeholders.
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, although TeleGeography has been unable to establish a more recent subscriber figure. Svyazinvest has made no secret of its intention to enter the lucrative Moscow cable market in recent months, but in September 2010 it was forced to suspend talks to buy broadband and cable provider Akado, due to recently resigned chairman Yevgeny Yurchenko’s disagreement over the mooted USD1.2 billion purchase price. Although it was believed that talks would be resurrected as soon as Yurchenko was replaced, it seems that Svyazinvest and its subsidiaries have now turned their attentions towards the alternative cableco.