MOSCOW Oct 3 A long-running campaign by
Norwegian telecoms group Telenor for an increased stake
in Russia's Vimpelcom won potentially important backing
on Wednesday, as the Russian antitrust regulator said it was
positive on a proposed deal.
Under the proposal set out on Monday, Telenor would gain an
equal shareholding in Vimpelcom alongside Russian co-investor
Altimo, through the joint purchase of a 6 percent stake owned by
Bertofan, an investment vehicle of Ukrainian tycoon Viktor
This stake would be divided between the two to equalise
their voting power, which stands at 43 percent for Telenor and
40.5 percent for Altimo - though Telenor has argued that the
Bertofan shares should in reality be counted in with Altimo's
Igor Artemyev, head of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service
(FAS), told reporters the body would ask the government
commission on foreign investments to approve the deal as Telenor
is a big investor. "We have to send a positive signal," he said.
A Telenor spokesman welcomed the FAS comments.
"If this is true it is clearly positive, and a sign that we
have come up with a good proposal ... If this is successful, we
are very happy with it," Dag Melgaard told Reuters, adding
Telenor had "not yet received any signals from Altimo".
Equal ownership is seen as a key condition for an
out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit brought by FAS earlier this
year to contest Telenor's dominant position in Vimpelcom. The
first court hearing on the case is scheduled for Oct. 17.
Artemyev also said that FAS may recall the lawsuit if the
companies involved resolve their differences and the government
approve the deal.