May 12, 2008 / 4:52 AM / in 11 years

UPDATE 1-Russian tycoon Usmanov buys stake in Megafon-paper

(Updates with telecoms ministry shake-up, analyst comments)

MOSCOW, May 12 (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov has bought control over 39.3 percent of shares in Megafon, the country’s third-largest mobile phone operator, the Vedomosti business daily reported on Monday. The daily quoted an unidentified source as saying Usmanov had bought 8 percent of Megafon from Bermuda-registered fund IPOC and 58.9 percent of holding company Telekominvest, which owned 31.3 percent of Megafon, from Luxembourg-registered First National Holding (FNH). Telekominvest was founded in the mid-1990s by Leonid Reiman, who in 2004 was appointed telecommunications minister under ex-President Vladimir Putin, after which he repeatedly denied being a beneficial owner of Megafon.

Both IPOC and FNH are owned by Jeffrey Galmond, a Danish lawyer and one of Reiman’s former associates.

In a cabinet shake-up on Monday, Putin, who stepped down as Russia’s president on May 7 and took the post of prime minister the same day, did not re-nominate Reiman to the cabinet.

Usmanov and Galmond, after reaching an agreement to proceed with the deal last year, signed the final documents on May 7, Vedomosti reported.

“[Reiman] leaving was definitely a surprise... But in the context of this Megafon deal, it does look logical for him to be leaving, even if the official beneficiary is IPOC,” Andrei Bogdanov, senior analyst at brokerage Troika Dialog, said.

The telecoms ministry Reiman headed was restructured during Monday’s government shake-up, with Putin nominating Igor Shchyogolev to head the new communications ministry.

A version of Reiman’s office expanded to include mass media oversight.

For a story about the changes click on [ID:nL12588849]. Other large shareholders in Megafon are Sweden’s TeliaSonera AB TLSN.ST and private equity vehicle Alfa Group.

Megafon reported a 70 percent increase in net profit to $1.38 billion in 2007, while revenue rose by 53 percent to $5,72 billion. (Writing by Gleb Bryanski and Simon Shuster; editing by Sue Thomas)

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