March 14, 2013 / 2:30 PM / 5 years ago

TeliaSonera says new Turkcell board may set dividend

ISTANBUL, March 14 (Reuters) - TeliaSonera said the board of Turkcell may next week propose a dividend and a general shareholder meeting, signalling that owners of the Turkish mobile phone firm had made progress in resolving long-standing legal battles.

Complex ownership disputes between TeliaSonera, Turkey’s Cukurova Holding and Russia’s Altimo have left Turkcell unable to agree on a board and approve dividend payments since 2009.

This week Turkish regulator The Capital Markets Board (SPK) said it had appointed three independent directors to Turkcell’s board and removed three board members, a decision welcomed by the three main shareholders, who have been at loggerheads since 2005 over control of the group.

A meeting of the new board is expected to take place on March 20, Teliasonera said on Thursday.

“A dividend proposal and general assembly timetable might be set in next week’s board meeting,” Erim Taylanlar, Teliasonera’s vice president, corporate communications Eurasia said in an interview.

“We favour the payment of dividends at the first general assembly meeting. Our ongoing court case with Cukurova is not a precondition,” he said.

TeliaSonera has the largest direct and indirect stake in Turkcell, amounting to 37 percent, but Turkcell is controlled by Cukurova through a complex shareholder structure.

Altimo appropriated Turkcell shares pledged by Cukurova in return for a loan after the Turkish company defaulted. Altimo and TeliaSonera joined forces against Cukurova in 2009, saying they would set up a joint holding company to run their assets in Turkey and Russia, where they have 90 million subscribers.

The dispute between the Turkcell shareholders over ownership continues at the Privy Council in London, which is hearing the case because the holding companies involved are registered in the British Virgin Islands. The council is the highest court of appeal for many Commonwealth countries.

In September 2011 an arbitration tribunal of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) ordered Cukurova to pay TeliaSonera damages of $932 million plus interest. (Reporting by Evren Ballim; Writing by Seda Sezer; editing by Jane Baird)

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