Telia CEO "confident" of offloading Eurasian assets in 2017

By:
James Pearce
Published on:

Johan Dennelind was speaking during Telia Company's Q4 financial results

Telia Company CEO Johan Dennelind said he was “confident” the Swedish firm will sell off its remaining Eurasian assets in 2017 after failing to find a buyer for the bulk of its business there last year.

Telia has been looking to offload assets beyond its core European business, last year marking its Eurasia operation as a discontinued line. 

In September, it reached an agreement to sell its 60% stake in Tcell’s parent company, but this is currently tied up in a tax dispute with Tajikistan’s authorities.

Speaking following Telia Company’s latest financial results, Dennelind said he was confident it would offload the assets this year, but said the timeframe was difficult to predict.

“I also want to direct a special thank you to our employees in Eurasia for keeping focus and turning trends during exceptionally difficult environments and circumstances,” he said.

“When it comes to the disposal of Fintur Holdings, we have seen an increased interest in our assets following the decision to explore a joint divestment of Fintur Holdings together with Turkcell. We see it as highly probable that the Eurasian assets will be disposed during 2017. As we already explained last quarter, the timing of the sale of Ucell asset is the most difficult to predict. 

“We continue to have a constructive dialogue with the US, Dutch and Swedish authorities in their respective investigations and have an active dialogue regarding the proposed settlement of $1.45 billion, recorded in our books in quarter three. Our ambition is to close this in a responsible way and in the best interest of our shareholders.”

Ucell is Telia’s Uzbekistani arm that was caught up in a poltical and legal scandal due to how it entered the market. 

The Uzbekistan scandal dates back to what was then TeliaSonera’s acquisition of Uzbekistan operator Coscom – later rebranded as Ucell – in July 2007. TeliaSonera "did not conduct a sufficiently in-depth analysis into the identity of our local partner in Uzbekistan before we invested in the country or into how this partner came to own the assets that were later obtained by TeliaSonera", said then

CEO Lars Nyberg in his 2013 resignation statement.

In its fourth-quarter results, Telia Company posted net sales of SEK 21 billion ($2.3 billion), down 6.7% on Q4 2015. EBITDA declined 2.7% to SEK 6.3 billion ($712 million).