Altimo freezes 2.7% stake in Vimpelcom over Kyrgyz cellco dispute

8 Dec 2011

Altimo, the telecoms arm of Russia’s Alfa Group, has frozen 2.7% of its 31.4% stake in Vimpelcom against any further commercial deals, pending the settlement of a long running dispute concerning Vimpelcom’s control over a Kyrgyz mobile operator, writes Cellular-News, citing Russian business news agency PRIME. Russia’s Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) is seeking to restore its right to an indirect 51% stake in Bitel, which was transferred by a Kyrgyz court to Rezervspetsmet (a company allegedly linked to Altimo) several days after MTS bought the stake in 2005. The following year, Bitel’s new owner passed all of its assets to a non-operational shell company, Sky Mobile, which was acquired by Altimo in June 2006. Since then, control of Sky Mobile has been acquired by Vimpelcom, following a series of transactions. In March 2011 MTS said that it had been granted leave to file a legal action against Sky Mobile and Altimo over Bitel. The Judicial Committee of the UK Privy Council, the highest court of appeal for the Isle of Man, ruled in favour of the three companies incorporated in the Isle of Man – Kyrgyzstan Mobitel, Flaxendale and George Resources (all owned by MTS) – to launch action against Sky Mobile and Altimo for the claimed wrongful misappropriation and seizure of Bitel and its assets. MTS’ affiliates sought to block part of Altimo’s stake in Vimpelcom as an injunction under their lawsuit seeking to restore MTS’ rights to Bitel. As part of the ongoing court action, Altimo has now reportedly sent documents to a UK court confirming that it has undertaken an obligation to make no deals regarding the 2.7% stake, which is financially equivalent to the amount in dispute.

Kyrgyzstan, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Sky Mobile (Beeline), VEON