OSLO, July 7 (Reuters) - Norway's Telenor ASA TEL.OL said on Tuesday a Moscow court had agreed to hear on July 21 a motion to halt the transfer of its shares in mobile firm Vimpelcom VIP.OL to a Russian agency in charge of auctioning them off.
“We’ll do whatever we can to stop a potential forced sale,” Telenor spokesman Dag Melgaard told Reuters.
He added, however, that a separate motion for a stay of execution of the transfer of its shares to the Federal State Property Agency, until after the court hearing, had been denied.
Vimpelcom, Russia’s second biggest mobile operator, is 44 percent owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group, while Telenor owns 29.9 percent.
Russian bailiffs issued an order last month to auction the shares and the Federal State Property Agency was entrusted with organising the sale. [ID:nLJ385090]
Bailiffs plan to sell Telenor’s stake to cover a $1.7 billion award by a Siberian court, which had ordered the Norwegian group to pay to Vimpelcom after Farimex, a tiny Vimpelcom shareholder, claimed Telenor had held back Vimpelcom’s expansion in Ukraine.
Telenor is contesting this ruling, which it views as being part of its protracted dispute with Alfa Group, although Alfa has denied links to Farimex.
Telenor’s appeal against the fine is due to be heard by another Siberian court on Sept. 30, but bailiffs have said the hearing of the appeal would not halt enforcement or stop them from selling the stake.
Telenor said on Tuesday it had filed its latest motions with a Russian business court, Moscow Arbitrazh court, last week.
“The motions were filed before the weekend and we were notified today that the first case will be heard on July 21,” Melgaard said.”
He added Telenor was confident the shares would not be transferred to the Federal State Property Agency before July 21, even though the motion for a stay of execution had been denied.
“They have said that a preparation of the sale will take at least two months ... so there is no clear and present danger of that,” Melgaard said.
The Federal State Property Agency said last month it would take at least two months to prepare the sale if a regular procedure was applied, but added it could take much less if the bailiff’s service decided to apply for a simplified procedure. (Editing by David Holmes)
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