* May then exit through an IPO, sale to strategic investor
* VTB with partners get 55 pct, Rostelecom 45 pct
* Merger to strengthen No. 4 player
(Adds detail, background, VTB comments)
MOSCOW, Feb 6 Russian bank VTB said it
would stay for at least three years as an investor in T2 RTK
Holding, the country's No.4 mobile carrier being formed from the
merger of Tele2 Russia and the wireless assets of Rostelecom
State-controlled VTB bought Tele2 Russia from Nordic
telecoms group Tele2 for $3.6 billion last April.
It later agreed to sell half of the business to a group of
investors including affiliates of Bank Rossiya and entities of
Alexei Mordashov, a billionaire tycoon who controls steelmaker
And last year, Tele2 Russia, already the country's No.4
mobile operator, decided to merge with the wireless assets of
Rostelecom, aiming to close the gap on MTS, Megafon
and Vimpelcom which together control more than
80 percent of the Russian mobile market.
"This is a strategic project for us and a relatively
long-term investment for all the shareholders. The minimum term
we are looking at to develop the company is likely three years,"
said Yuri Soloviev, VTB's First Deputy President, as the two
operators signed a framework agreement to press ahead with the
The bank may then exit T2 RTK Holding through an initial
public offering or sale to another investor, he told reporters
during a conference call.
VTB and its partners will get a 55 percent stake in T2 RTK
Holding, with Rostelecom having 45 percent. Soloviev said that
Rostelecom could raise its stake in the future - through a
possible public share offering or if one of the partners sells.
Rostelecom approved the spin-off of its mobile business,
including several operators and voice and data licences, last
year, but will have to buy out shareholders that did not support
Soloviev said VTB could help Rostelecom to finance the
buyout, but denied an earlier report in the Kommersant newspaper
that it might purchase shares in Rostelecom.
Analysts have said it remains to be seen whether an enlarged
No.4 player will be able to defend its position and grow in the
short term. Tele2 sold out of Russia because it did not see
strong enough growth prospects after failing to secure 3G and 4G
T2 RTK Holding will form a board of directors and hold a
meeting on strategy this month, Soloviev said. He added a
decision on who will be the CEO had yet to be taken.
(Reporting by Oksana Kobzeva and Maria Kiselyova; Editing by
Megan Davies and Mark Potter)