Moscow Federal Arbitration Court rejects latest TeliaSonera, Altimo merger appeal

21 Feb 2011

According to business news agency Prime-Tass, Russia’s Federal Arbitration Court for the Moscow District has upheld a lower court’s earlier ruling to reject a long-mooted deal concerning the ownership of Russian cellco MegaFon. The dispute involves Nordic telecoms group TeliaSonera and Altimo, the telecoms arm of Russia’s Alfa Group, who are keen to combine their respective stakes in MegaFon and Turkey’s Turkcell. The key shareholders sought to cancel the ruling issued by the Ninth Arbitration Court of Appeals in October 2010, which sided with MegaFon’s third major shareholder, Telecominvest. Telecominvest, which is owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, instituted legal proceedings to block the merger, claiming the deal violated Russia’s rules on foreign investment. In December 2010, Igor Artemyev, director of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), confirmed that the Russian government’s commission for foreign investments had banned the transference of MegaFon shares to offshore companies as part of the deal.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in November 2009 Altimo and TeliaSonera agreed to combine their holdings in MegaFon and Turkcell, with a view to combining the holdings in a new company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The two sides intended to share similar ownership and equal influence over the entity, with the deal expected to conclude an ongoing legal battle between the two firms regarding their respective stakes in Turkcell, whilst allowing them to use their unified presence to win complete control of Turkcell from Turkey’s Cukurova Group.

In related news, TeliaSonera has announced that it will seek to secure control of Turkcell at an annual general meeting scheduled for April. TeliaSonera CEO Lars Nyberg has reportedly indicated that TeliaSonera and Altimo have each agreed to have two members on Turkcell’s seven-member board of Turkcell. The other three members will be independent shareholders, which is hoped will speed up decision making in the event of disagreements between TeliaSonera and Altimo members. Turkcell failed to hold an extraordinary annual general meeting in October after a government commissioner neglected to turn up.

Russia, MegaFon, Telia Company, Turkcell