Russian national operator Rostelecom has announced that it is considering selling its 2.95% stake in Samara-based mobile operator SMARTS Group back to the latter’s controlling shareholders. According to Rostelecom, on 29 June the structural reorganisation of SMARTS Group was approved at its annual general meeting (AGM), and the current business will be divided into four private limited liability companies. Although Rostelecom did not participate in the AGM, in accordance with Clause 1 of Article 75 of the federal law on Joint Stock companies, it has the right to submit all or a part of its shares to SMARTS for a mandatory buyback. A price-tag of RUB120.6 million (USD3.75 million) has been suggested for the stake, and the telco is holding a board meeting on 9 August to discuss the matter. Anton Khozyainov, senior vice president of Rostelecom, commented: ‘Rostelecom’s management has proposed the sale of our investment in SMARTS to our board of directors. This is in accordance with our strategy to only invest in companies where Rostelecom can participate in the running of business processes’.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the 2.95% stake in SMARTS now attributed to Rostelecom was previously controlled by the now-dissolved Volga Telecom which was folded into Rostelecom on 1 April 2011 as part of the larger operator’s so-called ‘mega-regional merger’, which saw it combine the disparate subsidiaries of state-owned holding company Svyazinvest. Although minor, the stake has often posed a problem for SMARTS management; as an existing shareholder in a closed joint-stock company (CJSC) Volga was given preference in share sales ahead of outside investors, thwarting attempts to sell the company to the likes of Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) and MegaFon. The bulk of the remaining shares are believed to be held by company executives Gennady Kiryushin and Boris Skvortzov.