The government of Belarus’s long-running ambition to sell off a majority stake in MTS Belarus, its mobile joint venture with Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) of Russia, appears to have once again foundered on the rocks, with no bidders expressing firm interest in the stake and no talks on the matter underway. Belarusian ICT minister Nicholai Pantelei is quoted by Telecompaper (citing online journal RIA Novosti) as saying that despite the latest setback – the state has now tried at least three times to place the shares – it will not reduce its asking price, seen by many as the principal bar to any deal.
Earlier this year the government of Belarus confirmed plans to sell its majority stake in MTS Belarus for USD1 billion, despite apparent disinterest to date from potential buyers. MTS, which owns 49% of the cellco, has long argued that the USD1 billion valuation is inflated and to bear this out the state has spent over a year now trying – unsuccessfully – to offload its equity stake. It is thought that along with MTS, Turkish mobile network operator Turkcell and an Iranian investment vehicle are reportedly interested in the stake.