According to Reuters, the increasingly acrimonious shareholder dispute between Vimpelcom’s co-owners escalated on Friday, when a bailiff accompanied by around 15 armed men in uniform visited Telenor’s Moscow office to demand information. The Norwegian telecoms giant, which currently owns 39.5% of the voting rights in the Russian firm, commented: ‘We consider it an effort to pressure Telenor during the continued dispute between Vimpelcom shareholders’. Typically, any such requests would normally be sent by post, emphasising the heavy-handed tactics that have come into play. The information requested concerns Telenor’s controversial option to buy an additional 3.5% stake in Vimpelcom from Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris’s Weather Investments holding company.
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 that of Russian co-owner Altimo. 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.