Russia's Alfa increases stake in Vimpelcom

MOSCOW Fri Oct 5, 2012 12:15pm EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group has increased its voting stake in emerging markets telecoms operator Vimpelcom VIP.N to 41.85 percent, bringing it closer to the 43 percent owned by Norwegian telecoms group Telenor (TEL.OL).

The purchase by Alfa's Altimo unit increased the company's stake from the 40.5 percent held previously, a spokesman said on Friday, without saying who the shares had been bought from.

Alfa has had a long-running battle with Telenor over control and strategy at Vimpelcom, a dispute that has typified the challenges many overseas investors face in Russia's oligarch-dominated business world.

Equal ownership between the two sides in Vimpelcom is seen as a key condition for the settlement of a lawsuit brought by Russia's Federal Anti-Monopoly Service earlier this year which contested Telenor's dominant position in Vimpelcom.

Telenor on Monday completed the purchase of a 3.5 percent stake in Vimpelcom from Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris, which raised its stake to 43 percent.

(Reporting By Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Megan Davies; Editing by David Holmes)

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