Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman (pictured) has plans to invest $16 billion in the US and European telecoms and technology business via a London-based private equity fund called LetterOne Technology, the Financial Times has reported.
The figure could even be stretched to $25 billion as the group has no debt on its balance sheet, according to CEO Alexey Reznikovich.
A board has been appointed for the company, which includes industry heavyweights like Lastminute.com co-founder Brent Hoberman and Irish telecoms entrepreneur Denis O’Brien.
The company plans to focus on acquiring telecoms groups that may need help or capital, companies that create apps as well as streaming services.
According to its website, “LetterOne Technology will be developed through additional acquisitions of controlling and significant influence stakes of sizeable companies (transaction value >$1bn) in the sector, focusing on special situations such as turnaround of distressed and underperforming assets, other value opportunities including add-on acquisitions to the existing asset base and complementary parts of the value chain.”
“New acquisitions will benefit from our significant expertise, and will gain access to our existing customer base, which numbers over 200 million across existing networks,” commented Reznikovich.
Fridman and his Russian partners hold a 48 per cent stake in VimpelCom and 14 per cent share in Turkecell, worth around $14 billion together, for which LetterOne Technology will act as a holding company.
Reznikovich also said Europe’s telecoms sector needed to get out of its sluggish incumbent mindset and offer additional services in banking and digital content distribution.
The new investment strategy will work alongside plans to revamp VimpelCom’s global operations.
The CEO also complained that the Turkish government has “quasi-nationalised” Turkcell, thanks to a loan from a state bank and directors appointed by the country’s regulator, adding that “we cannot continue with the company the way it is going.”
LetterOne is locked in a long-running dispute over the ownership of the Turkish operator. Last month, it bid $2.8 billion for a controlling stake in Turkcell from the Cukurova conglomerate. LetterOne has argued Cukurova must accept the bid by 12 April, make a counter offer at the same terms for LetterOne’s own stake or subject the whole issue to arbitration.
Separately,.it was reported that Cukurova launched a legal action to buy out LetterOne at a lower price.