Altimo, the telecoms investment arm of Russia’s Alfa Group, has reportedly increased its stake in Amsterdam-based telecoms group Vimpelcom to 40.5% percent of the voting rights via the purchase of 305 million shares from Egyptian billionaire Naquib Sawiris’s Weather Investments II. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the latest development in the long-running saga over control of Vimpelcom also saw Evgeny Dumalkin, Altimo’s vice president, indicate that his company could yet seek a further increase in its holding. With Dumalkin noting that he expects Telenor to buy 3.5% of voting rights in Vimpelcom from Sawiris, which would increase the Norwegian company’s stake to 43% from 39.5%, the executive was cited as saying: ‘We are calling on Telenor to sell some of its shares to even our stakes in the company … We believe that Russian and foreign shareholders must have equal stakes in Vimpelcom. It’s our strategic vision and we call on Telenor to share such [an] approach.’
For its part, Telenor has indicated that it expects Altimo’s increase in voting rights to bring to an end the dispute with Russian regulators over the ownership of Vimpelcom. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in April 2011 the Norwegian telecoms giant revealed that the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) had filed a claim in the Moscow Arbitrazh Court, the Russian capital’s principal commercial court, against holding companies Telenor East Holding II and Weather Investments II. The legal action seeks to invalidate Telenor’s February 2012 purchase of 234 million Vimpelcom preferred shares from Weather Investments for USD374.4 million. In the wake of Altimo’s latest stake acquisition however, Telenor spokesman Dag Melgaard said: ‘We believe this transaction will necessarily put an end to the FAS lawsuit as it shows clearly that it is completely groundless’.