Telenor hints at VimpelCom stake sale - Mobile World Live

Telenor hints at VimpelCom stake sale

01 NOV 2012

Telenor’s CEO has said that a sale of its stake in VimpelCom to rival shareholder Altimo is a “realistic” and “pragmatic” option.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Jon Fredrik Baksaas hinted that such a move was a possibility following news this week that Altimo has lifted its stake in VimpelCom by a further 6 percent to 48 percent – above Telenor’s 43 percent.

Baksass said that he had not yet held talks with Altimo but was working out “strategies for the next move.”

“It depends on what has been put on the table. We should be pragmatic. We are realistic to the extent that others have a strong appetite,” he told the newspaper.

Altimo – controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman – is thought to be in a position to make a deal as it has recently sold its stake in another Russian operator, MegaFon, for US$5.2 billion, and stands to make US$11 billion from the sale of oil assets.

According to the report, at US$11 per ordinary share, a slight premium to Tuesday’s closing price, Altimo could buy Telenor’s stake for US$6.4 billion.

Analysts at Berenberg Bank said that if Altimo bought another 2.15 percent, its voting stake will go to above 50 percent, which would trigger a mandatory takeover offer.

Tore Toenseth, an analyst at Sparebank 1 Markets, told Reuters that he saw Telenor's comments as marking a change in attitude towards its VimpelCom holding.

"This indicates a greater openness towards a sale than we've seen until now. So this is a change in Telenor's rhetoric," Toenseth said.