Telenor served with claim of 1.7 billion USD by Norwegian bailiff
Telenor was today (April 3) officially served with a claim to pay 1.7 billion USD to Farimex Products. The claim was delivered by a Norwegian bailiff from Asker and Bærum District Court. Telenor is given five days to pay the sum voluntarily.
“We have no intention of honouring such a horrendous claim, which is based on an illegal Russian court ruling, still under appeal by us,” said Jan Edvard Thygesen, EVP and head of Telenor’s Central and East European operations.
The claim results from a court ruling in Omsk in Siberia on 20 February this year, holding Telenor liable for approximately US$1.7 billion in damages for allegedly delaying VimpelCom’s entry into the Ukrainian market. The court gave Farimex, a BVI registered company holding a 0.002 per cent stake in VimpelCom, a writ of execution to claim the amount. After taking arrest in Telenor’s VimpelCom shares without any kind of notification to Telenor, the claim has now been forwarded to Norwegian authorities, facilitated by the Norwegian law firm Wikborg Rein.
“The claim remains completely unfounded and has been set forth in abuse of Siberian courts by an obscure BVI company, whose sole director has never materialised. Should our shares in VimpelCom be sold as a result of this, we would regard it as a daylight robbery,” said Thygesen.
Telenor immediately after the ruling in Omsk appealed the decision to the appeals court in Tyumen in West Siberia. The appeal is to be heard on 26 May. A request for stay of execution was denied by the Tyumen court on 23 March. That decision has also been appealed by Telenor, an appeal that will be heard in Tyumen 28 April.
“Telenor has never inflicted any losses to VimpelCom and have faithfully supported the company ever since we invested in VimpelCom in 1998. At that time VimpelCom was close to bankruptcy with only 130,000 subscribers. Today VimpelCom has close to 60 million subscribers and we pride ourselves of having contributed extensively to that success. The only loss inflicted upon VimpelCom in the URS WellCom case is the very acquisition itself, which despite our protests was accomplished at the price of 231 million USD. Since the acquisition another 600 million USD has been poured into the company, resulting in a meager 3.4 per cent market share and just over two million subscribers. This is exactly why we objected to the acquisition,” said Thygesen.