Russia’s VTB Bank, part of the banking consortium which holds a 55% stake in cellco Tele2 Russia, is discussing with its shareholding partner Rostelecom the possibility of the latter upping its 45% Tele2 stake to a majority holding, Interfax reported. The news site quoted VTB’s deputy president Yuri Soloviev as saying that ‘there is a need’ to change the shareholder structure of Tele2 Russia, and in his opinion the majority controlling shareholder should be Rostelecom. According to Soloviev, VTB is in talks with the management of Rostelecom – Russia’s dominant fixed network operator – and shareholders, on the possibility of such a deal. He added that the proposed transaction will lead to better synergies between Rostelecom and Tele2, but also declared that the motivation for increasing Rostelecom’s stake is to raise the influence of the state over mobile network assets, citing cybersecurity as a major factor, in his view. TeleGeography notes that the Russian Federation (via the Federal Agency for State Property Management) holds a 45.04% equity stake (48.71% voting share) in Rostelecom.
Previously, Reuters reported that Rostelecom was ‘ready to consider’ upping its stake in Tele2 Russia to give it a controlling share, although no decision had been reached. Recently-appointed Rostelecom President Mikhail Oseevsky told Reuters that the company was looking to improve its operating and financial performance through ‘effective operating coordination’ with Tele2, adding that ‘If we can do that within the existing shareholder structure – great. If we understand together that we need direct management of Tele2 – obtaining a controlling stake – we will go this way.’