Telenor ‘still looking’ to sell VimpelCom stake

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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CEO Sigve Brekke says Telenor is still trying to find a buyer for its 33% stake in VimpelCom

Telenor still owns its 33% stake in VimpelCom, nearly 11 months after announcing that it would sell it, but it still hopes to find a buyer, according to CEO Sigve Brekke.

It is two years since Brekke’s predecessor, Jon Frederik Baksaas, said Telenor was exploring options for selling its VimpelCom stake. Baksaas left Telenor shortly afterwards when the company asked Deloitte to conduct an external review of its handling and oversight of its 33% ownership in VimpelCom.

The Norwegian operator, which is 54% owned by the state, has appointed JP Morgan to advise on the sale, which is believed to be worth $2.5 billion.

VimpelCom is controlled by Russian businessman Mikhail Fridman through his LetterOne investment group. It owns Wind in Italy, Beeline in Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan and other countries, Djezzy in Algeria, and a number of other businesses.

Telenor said it planned to sell the stake after its discomfort with a bribery scandal in Uzbekistan, which it settled in February by paying $795 million in the Netherlands – where VimpelCom is registered – and the US: VimpelCom shares are quoted on the Nasdaq.

“We have hired financial advisers that are helping us to plan how our exit will happen but we don’t know what the structure will look like. We are in a planning phase,” Brekke said in an interview with Reuters. He declined to give further details.

Brekke told the agency that Telenor would take part in planned 2017 and 2018 spectrum auctions in Thailand. “We definitely want to be part of the next rounds. We want to have more spectrum,” he said. Thailand generates 14% of Telenor’s profits.