* Asks court to drop injunctions, including Vimpelcom
* Telenor says it will be "pragmatic about its ownership"
MOSCOW Nov 23 Russia's competition watchdog has
dropped its case against Norwegian group Telenor for
raising its stake in Vimpelcom, paving the way for the
Russian mobile firm to resume dividend payments.
The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service filed a lawsuit in April
to contest Telenor's dominant stake in Vimpelcom whose strategic
importance, the regulator believed, required it be kept free of
A settlement became possible after Russian tycoon Mikhail
Fridman's Altimo raised its stake in New York-listed Vimpelcom,
whose largest market is Russia, overtaking telecoms group
Telenor as the biggest shareholder.
The FAS said on Thursday its head, Igor Artemyev, had asked
the court to recall all injunctions imposed in connection with
the case. A court injunction in May banned 2011 dividend
payments by Vimpelcom's Russian unit, OJSC Vimpelcom, prompting
the group to also stop dividend payments.
Vimpelcom chief executive Jo Lunder told Reuters last week
he expected the board to discuss resuming payments after the
lawsuit was dropped.
The decision clears the way for Vimpelcom to hold its annual
general meeting to elect the board. It will be held on Dec. 21
provided the court lifts the injunctions before Nov. 27.
"We have felt all along that the claims have been groundless
... We will do what we can to run Vimpelcom forward as
profitable company," Telenor spokesman Dag Melgaard said, adding
it no reason for exiting Russia any time soon.
"We have a long-term perspective in Russia. However, when
Altimo now has secured majority, it does not preclude us being
pragmatic about our ownership in the company."
Altimo has a 47.85 percent voting stake in Vimpelcom, while
Telenor's share is 43 percent.
The two shareholders have repeatedly bickered over
Vimpelcom's strategy and control for the past decade. Telenor
said for the first time this month it did not rule out selling
Vimpelcom would not comment.
Telenor shares were down 0.8 percent at 0935 GMT.