Norway’s Telenor Files Complaint To Protect Russian Holding

Telenor's office in Moscow

OSLO (AFP)–Norwegian telecoms company Telenor ASA (TEL.OS) said Wednesday it had filed a complaint with a Moscow court in a bid to prevent being stripped of its shares in a Russian mobile operator.

“The case will be heard April 16,” Telenor spokesman Dag Melgaard said.

Moscow’s Court of Arbitration will be asked to decide whether to suspend a ruling by Siberia’s court of appeal that ordered Telenor’s 29.9% holding in Russian mobile operator Vimpel Communications (VIP) to be seized.

Judges in February ordered that the Norwegian firm should pay compensation of $1.7 billion to Farimex, a minority VimpelCom shareholder registered in the British Virgin Islands. Telenor refused to pay, leading Siberian judges to order the seizure of its assets in VimpelCom.

Farimex argues it is fair compensation for alleged losses suffered from delays in Vimpelcom’s proposed takeover of Ukrainian Radio Systems.

The root of the conflict is a dispute between Telenor and Alfa Group of Russia, which holds 44% of VimpelCom. Telenor opposed VimpelCom’s acquisition of Ukrainian Radio Systems, which was concluded for $230 million in November 2005, while Alfa supported it.

Telenor argues that Farimex, which holds just a 0.002% stake in Vimpelcom, is really a front for the Alfa Group – a charge Alfa denies.

The deadline to settle the claim expires Wednesday but Melgaard told AFP that the company had “no intention of paying.” If they fail to pay, Telenor fears the Siberian court will force through the sale of their VimpelCom shares – even before all other legal hearings have been completed. “We hope that the Siberian court has the decency to wait,” Melgaard said.

Alfa and Telenor also jointly own the Kievstar telecoms group – 56.5% is owned by the Norwegian company and 43.5% by Alfa.

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