* Rotenberg buys 10.7 pct stake from Malofeyev's fund MarCap
* Move may lead to change in Rostelecom management
* Rotenberg quoted as saying he's a long-term investor
* Rostelecom privatisation seen in 2015
By Maria Kiselyova and Anastasia Teterevleva
MOSCOW, March 1 Arkady Rotenberg, a construction
tycoon and former judo sparring partner of Russian President
Vladimir Putin, has bought a stake in Rostelecom in a
move that could trigger a management change at the
state-controlled telecoms group.
Rostelecom said Rotenberg's Bellared Holdings Limited had
bought a 10.7 percent stake from Universal Telecom Investments
Strategies fund, part of Marshall Capital Partners (MarCap).
While Rostelecom did not disclose the price and other terms
of the deal, the Vedomosti newspaper reported Rotenberg paid 150
roubles ($4.90) per share, representing a 22-percent premium and
valuing the stake at $1.55 billion.
The exit of MarCap, a fund owned by investor Konstantin
Malofeyev, could herald a change at the top at Rostelecom, which
is currently headed by MarCap's former head Alexander
Provotorov, analysts said.
Since a cabinet reshuffle last May, the government, which
has a 53 percent stake in Rostelecom, has become critical of
management's plans to expand in the competitive mobile market,
as well as a weak share price.
Anna Lepetukhina at Sberbank Investment Research said the
stake sale was positive because it removed uncertainty over the
future of MarCap in Rostelecom.
"However ... the more important issue is whether Marshall
Capital Partners' exit will unify the views of shareholders and
government officials on the company's strategy," she said.
The sale was largely expected after a British court lifted
an order freezing MarCap's stake in an unrelated legal dispute.
It had been seized over a case brought by state-owned bank VTB
against Malofeyev and MarCap over a 2007 loan.
Last November, Russian investigators searched the homes of
Provotorov and Malofeyev as part of the case.
"The acquisition of Rostelecom shares is for us a long-term
investment into the Russian telecoms sector," Rotenberg was
quoted as saying in a statement issued by MarCap on Friday,
which described Rotenberg was a "strategic investor."
It also said Rotenberg, as well as Nikolai Sabitov and
Artyom Obolensky, would be nominated to Rostelecom's board of
directors as the new shareholder's representatives.
"It remains to be seen whether Rotenberg is a financial
investor or has a strategic interest. We do not rule out he
wants to understand the asset better ahead of the Rostelecom
privatisation," said Ivan Kim, an analyst at VTB Capital.
Russian communications minister Nikolai Nikiforov said late
last year the long-expected privatisation of Rostelecom would be
possible in 2015.
Rotenberg has had no previous exposure to the telecoms
sector but Vedomosti in January named him and his brother as
potential bidders for the Russian fixed-line retail broadband
business of Vimpelcom.
Rotenberg was not immediately available for comment.
Rostelecom shares were trading 1 percent higher at 124.00
roubles by 1110 GMT, outperforming the broader market index
, but were still down 16 percent from the year-ago levels.
Last year, Putin swapped jobs with Dmitry Medvedev who
became prime minister and replaced communications minister Igor
Shchyogolev, undermining the government backing that Rostelecom
management previously enjoyed.
Rotenberg's purchase is the latest in a string of
acquisitions by oligarchs who have grown rich since Putin rose
to power in 2000, while those who made their fortunes in the
chaotic 1990s are increasingly cashing out.
In an example of the latter, Mikhail Prokhorov, who ran for
the presidency last year, recently sold his $3.6 billion stake
in gold miner Polyus. He had been named in reports as a
possible buyer of the Rostelecom stake.
In another sign of the Kremlin's increasing influence in
business, state-controlled Rosneft is taking over Anglo-Russian
oil firm TNK-BP in a $55 billion deal that would put
two-fifths of the country's oil production under state control.