Russia’s anti-trust regulator has withdrawn its legal action against Telenor’s shareholding in VimpelCom, the latest sign that a long-running ownership dispute at the operator is abating.
“The Russian government has taken the decision to withdraw the case brought before the Moscow Arbitration Court seeking to annul the transaction by Telenor in VimpelCom shares," the country’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) said in a statement this morning.
The FAS launched legal action against Telenor in May after the Norwegian group increased its VimpelCom shareholding to a then-majority stake, prompting the Moscow court to issue an injunction preventing VimpelCom from paying dividends.
Although VimpelCom is headquartered in Amsterdam, its Russian unit generates 40 percent of group sales and is considered a strategic Russian asset, meaning it is up to the government to decide whether a foreign investor (such as Telenor) may raise its stake above a 25 percent threshold.
The situation appears to have been defused last month when VimpelCom’s other main shareholder, Mikhail Fridman’s Altimo group, increased its stake by 6 percent to 47.85 percent in October – above Telenor’s 43 percent.
This also prompted speculation that Altimo could launch a takeover bid with Telenor not ruling out the sale of its stake.