Swedish telecoms group Telia Company reports on its website that the sale of its 60%-owned Tajikistan mobile operator Tcell – agreed in September – has been delayed. As previously announced, Telia signed an agreement to sell its 60% holding in Indigo Tajikistan (trading as Tcell) to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), which currently holds 40% of Tcell, and the transaction was originally expected to close by the end of 2016 subject to necessary regulatory approval. The latest release from Telia says, however, that it is difficult to project when the deal will complete, as the time period for the necessary approval has expired without any clear response from the relevant authorities.
The delay comes amid an appeal by Tcell against what it says is an illegal tax claim. In Telia’s words: ‘The authorities in Tajikistan are basing their tax claim on revenue that Tcell has never generated, so-called ‘unrealised revenue’. Tcell and its advisors are of the opinion that there is no legislative support in the Tajik Tax Code.’ The claim is for TJS155 million (USD19.7 million) including penalties and interests, following a tax audit for the period May 2015 to June 2016 made by the Tajik tax authority. Telia’s release adds: ‘As a comparison this is more than the EBITDA result for 2015. Should Tcell not be successful in its appeal it would put very severe financial strain on Tcell.’ ‘We are very concerned with the situation which we believe is totally unacceptable,’ said Emil Nilsson, Telia Company’s Senior Vice President and Head of Business Region Eurasia.