* Vimpelcom/Kyivstar merger backed by minority shareholders
* Offer expected to clear 95 pct acceptance threshold
* Farimex drops court case inhibiting merger deal
* Telenor shares up 3.52 percent
(Releads, adds detail, Telenor shares)
By Maria Kiselyova and Wojciech Moskwa
MOSCOW/OSLO, April 16 A high-profile peace accord
between Norway's Telenor (TEL.OL) and Russia's Alfa cleared two
big hurdles on Friday as smaller shareholders backed their asset
merger plan and a lawsuit hampering the deal was dropped.
Telenor and Alfa Group -- business empire of Russian tycoon
Mikhail Fridman -- decided late last year to merge their
holdings in Vimpelcom VIP.N, Russia's No.2 mobile operator,
and Ukraine's Kyivstar into New-York listed company Vimpelcom
Ltd to end a long-running corporate battle. [ID:nL5637811]
The deal hinged on the acceptance by at least 95 percent of
Vimpelcom's shareholders, suspension of all legal actions
against Telenor and regulatory approvals.
Farimex, an obscure Vimpelcom shareholder, on Friday dropped
its $1.7 billion lawsuit against Telenor in a Siberian court.
Also on Friday, Vimpelcom Ltd said its exchange offer to
holders of Vimpelcom's New-York listed American Depositary
Shares received "overwhelming support", ensuring at least a 97
percent acceptance with the Russian part of the offer ongoing.
"We are very close to closing this deal, provided that the
Farimex issue is settled at no cost to us and the closing of the
Russian part of the offer on April 20," Telenor spokesman Dag
Melgaard said. [ID:nOSN004376]
Siberian courts had ruled in favour of Farimex and Telenor's
stake in Vimpelcom has been seized by Russian bailiffs because
the Norwegian company refused to pay the fine. [ID:nLU48993]
Farimex claimed that Telenor inhibited Vimpelcom's timely
expansion into Ukraine, where it would compete against Kyivstar,
and therefore hurt the Russian operator. Telenor has long said
that the case against it was without merit.
"We decided to withdraw the suit as there has been a
resolution," Farimex lawyer Dmitry Chyorny told Reuters.
Telenor's shares rose 3.52 percent by 0814 GMT.
Telenor said it awaited a decision by Russian bailiffs to
release its Vimpelcom shares and cancel proceedings against it.
"This was very important for Telenor," said Tore Toenseth,
an analyst at Argo Securities in Oslo. "The political and
operational risk that Telenor faces in Russia has been
Vimpelcom Ltd depositary receipts will begin trading on
Friday on the New York stock exchange on a "when-issued" basis
under the VIP.WI ticker. Regular trading of the stock is
expected to start on April 22, Vimpelcom Ltd said.
(With additional reporting by Joergen Frich; Editing by David