Despite indications to the contrary, the long-running ownership saga that has dogged Amsterdam-based telecoms group Vimpelcom in recent years shows no signs of abating, Reuters reports. The company’s largest Russian shareholder Altimo, which is part of the Alfa Group, has now rebutted comments made by its fellow shareholder Telenor of Norway, suggesting that the dispute between the two parties was effectively over. Citing emailed comments by Altimo, Reuters reports that Telenor, alongside Norwegian state-owned fund managers and Ukrainian tycoon Viktor Pinchuk’s EastOne company (represented by Cyprus-based Bertofan Investments), currently control a combined 51% of Vimpelcom’s voting shares, compared to Altimo’s 40.5% stake. Earlier this week Telenor argued that the roughly 6% stake held by Pinchuk should be counted as part of Altimo’s stake, rather than its own, giving the Russian partner effective control over the group. Altimo vice president Evgeny Dumalkin told Reuters: ‘We flatly reject all accusations that … EastOne nominally owns Vimpelcom shares in Altimo’s interests’. He added that Altimo reserved the right to sue Telenor for this suggestion.
Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) filed a lawsuit in April this year, seeking to overturn a February deal that increased Telenor’s stake above Altimo’s. Parity of ownership is seen as a precondition for withdrawal of the suit, as Vimpelcom’s Russian unit is considered to be a strategic asset by the government.