Minor Vimpelcom shareholder Oleg Kiselev – who bought into the company shortly after the completion of the Russian telecoms group’s USD6.5 billion merger with Naguib Sawiris’s Wind Telecom group – has reportedly disposed of his controversial 5.995% stake, following claims by fellow shareholder Telenor that he was acting in the interests of Vimpelcom’s Russian co-owners Altimo. According to Reuters, Ukrainian tycoon Viktor Pinchuk’s EastOne company, which controls Ukraine’s biggest steel pipe producer Interpipe, bought the stake from Kiselev via investment vehicle Bertofan Investments. EastOne has not provided financial details of the deal, aside from saying that it was part of its portfolio investment strategy. However, Reuters claims that according to Vimpelcom’s filing to the SEC, Kiselev sold the stake to Cyprus-registered Bertofan on 30 December 2011 for USD111 million in cash.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database writes that, Forrielite, a Cyprus-based holding company owned by Alfa Group founder Oleg Kiselev, acquired its stake from Altimo in June 2011 for approximately USD100 million. The deal effectively terminated the pre-existing shareholder agreement between Telenor and Altimo, which included a clause stipulating that both sides had to retain a 25% stake or higher for the pact to remain valid. The termination of the agreement was thought to be a precursor to Altimo handing Sawiris a seat on the Vimpelcom board, a move that was first mooted just hours after the telecoms giant completed its merger with Wind Telecom; the larger transaction was strongly opposed by Telenor. Unsurprisingly, in October 2011 Telenor declared that the deal with Forrielite was illegal and initiated legal action against Altimo. However, the warring co-owners called a temporary truce in late-November, agreeing to abide by their long-standing shareholder agreement until an arbitration panel was able to rule on the legality of the transaction; the original shareholder pact was due to expire on 10 December 2011. Despite Telenor’s claims, Altimo maintained that it had no connection to Kiselev.