Russian phone firm MTS settles Kyrgyz dispute, to book $320 mln gain

MOSCOW, June 25 Tue Jun 25, 2013 12:51pm EDT

MOSCOW, June 25 (Reuters) - Russia's top mobile phone operator MTS said on Tuesday it had settled a lawsuit over the 51-percent stake it bought in Kyrgyz operator Bitel in 2005 and would book a $320 million gain in the second quarter of 2013.

MTS wrote off that amount in 2006 after it failed to gain operational control of what was then Kyrgyzstan's biggest mobile operator because its ownership was in dispute.

The initial stake was bought from a holding company which owned Bitel and also sold MTS an option to buy the rest of the company for $170 million.

Bitel was later sold to Sky Mobile, a unit of MTS's Russian rival Vimpelcom, part-owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Altimo which became one of the parties to a legal case brought by MTS.

In a statement on Tuesday, MTS said all proceedings had been waived and that it would receive up to $150 million from one of the parties involved. It did not elaborate.

Altimo was not immediately available for comment.

MTS's New-York listed stock was trading 0.8 percent higher by 1618 GMT. Vimpelcom rose 1 percent.

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