UK court to rule on Turkcell shareholder dispute on March 4

ISTANBUL Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:38am EST

ISTANBUL Feb 18 (Reuters) - A British court will decide in two weeks time on the terms under which Turkey's Cukurova Holding can recover a disputed stake in Turkcell, the country's largest mobile phone operator, from Russian partner Altimo.

Altimo appropriated the 13.8 percent Turkcell stake, which carries controlling rights, after Cukurova defaulted on a $1.35 billion loan in 2005. Cukurova had put up the stake as collateral for the loan.

Britain's Privy Council ruled last month that while Altimo was entitled to take over the stake, Cukurova also had the right to recover it if it paid the outstanding loan plus interest and costs.

The court requested more information from both sides to help it decide on the terms for such a recovery, and a court spokesman said on Monday it would reconvene on March 4.

"This hearing aims to decide the terms on which Cukurova will have the opportunity to recover the shares," court spokesman Ben Wilson said.

"It is envisaged that this will be the final hearing on this matter before the Privy Council," he said, adding that while the March hearing aimed to decide the terms, a final written judgement laying them down would come later.

The near six-year disagreement between Turkcell's major shareholders has left the mobile phone operator unable to agree the composition of its board, distribute dividends or pursue a coherent growth strategy.

The dispute pits Turkish tycoon Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, a Turkcell founder who owns Cukurova, against Altimo, the telecoms arm of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group.

Altimo holds 13.2 percent of Turkcell. Nordic telecoms group TeliaSonera holds 37 percent, while the remaining 34 percent is largely free float.

Sources told Reuters two weeks ago that Cukurova was seeking a loan of up to $2 billion to recover the stake and that Karamehmet may pledge his holdings in oil firm Genel Energy or steel maker Noksel Celik Boru as collateral.