Alfa on top of Russian mobile tree after TeliaSonera deal

Natalie Apostolou
16 Nov 2009

Russian operator the Alfa Group has secured a deal with TeliaSonera to create a US-listed company consisting of controlling stakes of Turkish mobile operator Turkcell and Russia’s MegaFon.

The agreement comes a month after Alfa ended a five-year legal battle with Norway's Telenor by combining their assets in Vimpelcom, the no. 2 Russian cellco, and Ukrainian operator Kyivstar.

The deals put Alfa “at the top of the Russian mobile industry after more than five years of bruising corporate battles that saw it take on Scandinavian telecoms, a Turkish billionaire and even the Russian telecoms minister,” said.

“This has been a banner year for Alfa. They should win oligarch of the year awards,” a source told the FT.

TeliaSonera said in a statement that the agreement had created “a leading international operator, with over 90 million subscribers in Russia, Turkey and the CIS countries.”

But analysts have warned that the deal may face opposition from Turkcell and MegaFon’s minority shareholders, thanks to Alfa’s aggressive reputation.

TeliaSonera has been in a legal tussle with Turkcell’s parent Cukurova since 2005 when the Turkish group pulled out a deal to sell shares in Turkcell to Telia, opting instead to form a venture with Alfa.

In August, an arbitration tribunal ordered Cukurova to sell its remaining stake in Turkcell to Telia for $3.1 billion.

The new JV said that the deal would help resolve legal disputes between them and Cukurova.

Alfa and TeliaSonera own a combined 69% in Russsia’s number 3 carrier MegaFon, and 42% of Turkey's largest operator, Turkcell.

If approved the new entity will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange within one to two years.

Alfa's telecoms unit CEO Alexei Reznikovich said “this is more of a framework agreement,” he said, adding that the most significant step with TeliaSonera is the decision to coordinate legal strategy.

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