Belarus says no price cut for MTS venture stake

MINSK Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:15am EST

MINSK (Reuters) - Belarus will not lower the price for the state's stake in a mobile phone joint venture with Russian group MTS, President Alexander Lukashenko told Reuters on Tuesday.

Belarus last year set a $1 billion price for its 51 percent stake in the firm - the country's biggest mobile operator with 5 million active users - but failed to attract any bidders.

"MTS is a very profitable company. We are in no hurry to sell it," Lukashenko said in an interview. "Today the controlling stake is worth more than $1 billion. If you don't want to buy for $1 billion, we shall wait."

Russia's top mobile phone operator MTS, which owns the other 49 percent, had earlier expressed interest in buying out the Belarussian state, but considered the price too high.

Belarus plans another attempt at the sale at the end of this year or beginning of 2013.

(Reporting by Richard Balmforth, Andrei Makhovsky, Timothy Heritage; Writing by Maria Kiselyova in Moscow; Editing by Douglas Busvine)