Putin ally buys stake in Russia's Rostelecom

MOSCOW, March 1 Fri Mar 1, 2013 12:59am EST

MOSCOW, March 1 (Reuters) - Arkady Rotenburg, a construction billionaire and former judo sparring partner of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has bought a 10.7 percent stake in Rostelecom, the state-controlled telecoms group said.

The stake sale by Marshall Capital Partners, which is owned by investor Konstantin Malofeyev, follows months of pressure on management headed by Alexander Provotorov - Malofeyev's former partner at Marshall.

Analysts say the transaction could herald a change at the top at Rostelecom, after Putin's election as president and change in government last year undermined the political backing that management previously enjoyed.

Rostelecom in a statement that the stake was bought by Rotenberg's Bellared Holdings Limited from Universal Telecom Investments Strategies fund, part of Marshall Capital Partners. It did not disclose the price and other terms of the deal.

Last month, financial daily Vedomosti said that Marshall Capital was seeking to sell the stake for 51.6 billion roubles ($1.7 billion).

A source close to one of the parties told the Vedomosti daily on Friday that the deal represented a significant premium to Rostelecom's current share price and was close to the price Malofeyev had sought.

Another source said that Rotenberg agreed to pay 150 roubles per share, which would represent a 22 percent premium given that Rostelecom shares closed at 122.72 roubles on Thursday. ($1 = 30.6026 Russian roubles) (Reporting by Anastasia Teterevleva; Writing by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Douglas Busvine)