MOSCOW, April 18 MegaFon, Russia's
No.2 mobile operator, has agreed to borrow up to $2 billion from
a group of banks, following reports it could seek funds to buy
back a one-quarter stake owned by oligarch Mikhail Fridman.
MegaFon said on Wednesday it would borrow the money for six
months from Citibank, BNP Paribas and Barclays, with an option
to extend the loan by another six months.
It did not specify the purpose of the loan, but Vedomosti
newspaper reported this week that MegaFon was seeking funds to
buy back a 25.1 percent stake owned by Altimo, part of Fridman's
Two of the three main shareholders in MegaFon - Altimo and
Nordic telecoms firm Teliasonera, which owns 43.8
percent - have confirmed they are in talks on the group's
Sources familiar with the matter say billionaire Alisher
Usmanov, who owns a 31.1 percent stake, is interested in
securing majority control of the company.
The sources say the most cost-effective way for Usmanov to
secure control would be for MegaFon, which has $1.5 billion in
net cash on its balance sheet, to buy Fridman's stake, reported
to be worth up to $5 billion.
Carrying a prudent amount of debt would also be positive for
MegaFon's tentative plans to launch an initial public offering
of shares that could give it a valuation roughly in line with
market leader MTS and No.3 Vimpelcom.
Representatives for Usmanov, Fridman and Teliasonera have
declined to comment on the ownership talks.