Telenor is still working out a way to divest its $2.4 billion stake in VimpelCom, a move announced last October, amid reports that its options for buyers are limited.
Speaking to Reuters, Sigve Brekke, CEO, said the company is working with financial advisers on how to make the exit happen, but the proposed sale remains “in a planning phase”.
The Norwegian operator made the decision to sell its 33 per cent holding last year, describing its experience of holding a minority stake in the Netherlands-based group as “challenging”. It did not set a timeframe for exit, only noting that the process would take “some time”.
According to analysts cited by Reuters, the exit process is even more difficult because there are few options on the table.
The obvious buyer would be Mikhail Fridman’s LetterOne, which holds a 48 per cent stake, but this would “leave Telenor with little bargaining power if they want to sell all in one”, said Carnegie analyst Haavard Nillsson.
And the relationship between Telenor and LetterOne has been far from easy.
The analyst added that there are a limited number of potential buyers because telecoms is viewed as a strategic asset in Russia.
VimpelCom has also been embroiled in a probe into its dealings in Uzbekistan, following investigations by US and Dutch governments over allegations it paid bribes to acquire spectrum and other benefits in Uzbekistan.
VimpelCom settled the case in February, paying $795 million.
VimpelCom CEO Jean Yves Charlier told Bloomberg earlier this month the company would welcome a move by Telenor to sell its shares in a public offering – which would also present the Norwegians with an alternative to LetterOne.