MTS Ukraine, the country’s second largest cellco by subscribers, has reached a preliminary agreement to buy TriMob, the 3G mobile subsidiary of Ukrainian nationwide fixed line operator Ukrtelecom, part of conglomerate SCM Group, itself owned by Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov, according to industry sources quoted in a BizLiga report. TeleGeography notes that Russian-backed MTS Ukraine (which recently adopted the Vodafone Ukraine brand) has long been linked as one of the potential buyers of TriMob, but previous negotiations have stalled on disagreements over fair value for the asset, despite the keenness of Ukrtelecom/SCM to offload the cellular division and concentrate on triple-play fixed broadband/telephony/IPTV services. The latest report cites two senior telecoms managers as saying that the deal should be closed in the first half of 2016, at a price roughly in the region of UAH3 billion (USD125 million) – around the same value in local currency which was bandied about in 2011. There has been no official confirmation of a preliminary deal, however, with Ukrtelecom’s director of corporate communications Michael Shuranov telling BizLiga that ‘the status is not changed’ and that the telco continues to ‘consider the options’ and does not rule out a sale, whilst MTS Ukraine’s press service said it refused to comment on ‘rumours’.
Turkcell was previously the favourite to purchase TriMob, but instead last year the Turkish firm opted to take full ownership control of Ukraine’s third-placed cellco Astelit, which was previously run as a joint venture between Turkcell and SCM.