* Hires former Verizon Wireless CFO Andrew Davies
* Moving to Nasdaq after nearly two decades on NYSE
* Confirms interest in acquiring assets in Pakistan
By Maria Kiselyova
MOSCOW, Aug 7 Russia's third-largest mobile
operator Vimpelcom has hired the former finance chief of
the biggest U.S. mobile provider Verizon Wireless, as it strives
to cut its $23 billion debt.
Vimpelcom, which has significant operations in Italy and
several emerging markets, also said on Wednesday it was moving
its shares to U.S. technology market Nasdaq after
nearly two decades trading on rival NYSE Euronext, to
The appointment of Andrew Davies as chief financial officer
(CFO) could help Amsterdam-based Vimpelcom cut debt, while it
exits some emerging markets and refocuses on its core operations
in Russia and Italy, analysts said.
Davies worked at Vodafone's Turkish, Japanese and
U.K. businesses before joining Verizon Wireless - a joint
venture between the British company and U.S.-based Verizon
Communications - in 2010.
He left the CFO role at Verizon Wireless in June to become
Vodafone's financial representative at the joint venture.
Analysts linked Davies' appointment to Vimpelcom's recent
move to set up an in-house bank aimed to help manage the group's
$23 billion net debt that resulted from a more than $6 billion
acquisition of Egypt's Orascom Telecom and Italy's
Wind in 2010.
"This structure demands a very experienced, high-level CFO
at the group level and thus Vimpelcom is well positioned to
attract the best talent out there," said Tibor Bokor at Wood&Co.
Alexander Vengranovich, analyst at Otkritie brokerage, said
some Vimpelcom investors were concerned outgoing CFO Henk van
Dalen had moved too slowly to ease the debt burden.
Vimpelcom said Davies will take up his post by January 2014.
Vimpelcom vies for customers in Russia and investors seeking
exposure to that telecoms market with London-listed rival
Megafon and New York-listed MTS.
Russian companies tend to list their stock abroad to attract
more shareholders as the Moscow market is relatively small and
unpopular with foreign investors.
Some investors have favoured Megafon and MTS due to
Vimpelcom's lagging performance in Russia and a long dispute
between its two biggest shareholders Altimo, the telecoms arm of
Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Alfa-Group, and Norwegian
telecoms group Telenor, which was resolved last year.
Vimpelcom is the smallest of Russia's big three mobile
operators with 24 percent of subscribers compared with MTS's 31
percent market share and Megafon's 27 percent, according to
market research group AC&M.
It lost the number two spot to Megafon in 2010 while
Vimpelcom has focused on improving its market share in
Russia, which accounted for two-fifths of its revenue last year,
by cutting costs and boosting network quality.
Vimpelcom's shares were up 5 percent by 1720 GMT,
outperforming MTS which was trading 0.2 percent higer.
Vimpelcom, which listed its shares on the New York Stock
Exchange in 1996, said on Wednesday it was moving to rival
Nasdaq to be included into several technology indexes
and to save costs.
"There are many TMT (technology, media and telecoms)
companies present on Nasdaq ... and we think it is a natural
step for Vimpelcom to be included into that very strong group of
companies," Vimpelcom Chief Executive Jo Lunder said in a
NYSE and Nasdaq compete fiercely for company listings,
although Russian companies which join overseas stock exchanges
tend to favour the London Stock Exchange, which is
Vimpelcom will join other Russian technology-focused
companies on Nasdaq such as search engine Yandex and
expects to begin trading on Sept. 10.
The move will be a loss for the NYSE, which boasts a handful
of Russian names such as MTS, steel and coal miner Mechel
and U.S.-based IT firm Epam Systems Inc.
Vimeplcom, which last month agreed to sell two of its
African businesses is considering buying Warid Telecom in
Pakistan, where it already operates under the brand Mobilink.
"Pakistan is clearly a core market that we have a long-term
ambition in," Lunder said.