* Telenor says intent on derailing Wind deal at March 17 EGM
* Will accept outcome of Wind vote and work with Vimpelcom
* Says arguments against Wind resonate with Vimpelcom owners
By Wojciech Moskwa
OSLO, March 9 Norway's Telenor (TEL.OL) pledged
to work constructively with its estranged partners in Vimpelcom
VIP.N even if it fails to block the Russian operator's $6
billion-plus purchase of Wind Telecom next week.
Telenor, with a 36 percent voting stake in Vimpelcom, faces
an uphill battle to gain support from some three-quarters of
independent Vimpelcom minority owners to derail the deal with
Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris.
Shareholders are due to vote at an extraordinary general
meeting on March 17.
Vimpelcom and its main Russian owner, billionaire Mikhail
Fridman's Alfa Group, back the deal that would give Russia's No.
3 operator all of mobile group Wind Italy and control of
emerging markets powerhouse Orascom Telecom ORTE.CA.
Telenor has said the deal made no financial or strategic
sense for Vimpelcom, especially due to the weak position of Wind
Italy. Vimpelcom this week reasserted that Wind would boost its
value. [ID:nN04227305] [ID:nLDE72724W]
"We will remain against the deal and continue to voice our
opinion to other shareholders until such time as the... general
meeting takes place," Telenor Senior Vice President Torbjorn
Wist said in an article published on Telenor's website.
"However, if this deal goes through, we will have to accept
it and work in the company's best interests," he said, adding
that Telenor will also continue to pursue a separate arbitration
case to secure its rights to maintain its Vimpelcom stake.
Previously, Telenor has sent mixed signals about whether it
would be interested in remaining in Vimpelcom long term if its
voting clout was clipped by the entry of Sawiris.
FACTBOX-Arguments for and against Sawiris deal
TIMELINE-Vimpelcom's uneasy partners [ID:nLDE7170BM]
Wist is heading Telenor's efforts to meet as many Vimpelcom
shareholders as possible and outline why he believes it is in
their interest to oppose the Wind deal.
"Many of the investors that we talk to tend not to disclose
how they will vote, but the arguments that we are putting
forward clearly resonate," Wist was quoted as saying.
"The most important thing for us is to get people to
actually take an active stand against the deal. The worst thing
is inertia, where people sit back, thinking it's a foregone
conclusion and don't bother to vote."
Telenor's arbitration case will focus on whether it can take
part in Vimpelcom's share issue for Sawiris.
An arbitrator cannot stop the deal but could allow Telenor
to maintain its voting stake and ease its concerns that
Vimpelcom was effectively slipping into the control of Fridman
(Editing by Erica Billingham)