Telia’s sale of its 60 per cent stake in Tajikistan operator Tcell’s parent company is being held up by a tax dispute with the country’s authorities, the operator revealed.

The $39 million agreement to sell its share of Central Asian Telecommunications Development, which owns Tcell, to minority stakeholder Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development was expected to be completed by the end of 2016. Telia today confirmed it is unsure when the deal will be done.

Tcell is currently embroiled in a row with Tajikistan authorities regarding what it believes is an illegal tax claim for TJS155 million ($19.6 million) based on revenues the company said it had never generated.

In a statement Telia said the sum, which covers the period from May 2015 to June 2016, exceeds Tcell’s total 2015 EBITDA and would put a severe strain on the business.

Telia SVP and head of Business Region Eurasia Emil Nilsson said: “We are very concerned with the situation which we believe is totally unacceptable.”

The company’s sale of the unit forms part of a wider strategy to exit seven markets in Eurasia, namely Nepal, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Tajikistan.