Russian investment group Alfa and financial firm VTB struck an agreement to jointly invest in Turkcell, as the deadline to resolve a long-running dispute over ownership of the Turkish operator nears.

In a statement, the two Russian groups said they had signed an agreement “stating their intention” to invest in Turkey’s largest operator, due to “Alfa’s potential increase of its stake in the operator”.

Alfa, controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, has been involved in an ownership tussle for the company with Turkcell founder Mehmet Karamehmet’s equity partner Cukurova for over a decade, with the issue due to be resolved this month.

Under Turkcell’s complex ownership structure, Fridman holds 13.2 per cent of parent company Turkcell Holdings, Karamehmet holds 13.8 per cent, while Sweden’s Telia Company owns 37 per cent, said Reuters.

Last April, Cukurova launched an arbitration process to buy the Turkcell stake held by Fridman’s Alfa,  and sued the company in the London Court of Arbitration.

It claimed Alfa tried to benefit from in fighting between Telia and Turkcell, which was contrary to its partner agreement.

However, in July the court dismissed the claims against Fridman, and required Cukurova to choose to either buy his shares in Turkcell for $2.7 billion, or sell its stake to the Russian entrepreneur for $2.8 billion.

The court then pushed back the deadline from September to November, and Alfa’s intention to invest suggests it could now be set to buy out Karamehmet and Cukurova.

VTB added that its experts at the company believe the potential investment “could help Turkcell generate higher foreign exchange earnings, and further enhance its investment potential”.