* Says was fully aware of options for Tele2 Russia
* $3.5 bln deal with VTB has spawned rival offers
* MTS and Vimpelcom, A1 both bidding
STOCKHOLM, April 2 (Reuters) - Nordic telecom operator Tele2 said on Tuesday it had decided to sell its Russian operator to bank VTB being fully aware what other options existed for the business.
Tele2’s Russian business has become the center of rival offers in the wake of $3.5 billion agreed deal unveiled last week to sell the assets to state-controlled bank VTB.
In the wake of the news, investment group A1 rolled out an all-cash bid of $3.6 billion to $4 billion while Russia’s top mobile operator MTS joined with rival Vimpelcom Ltd in a $4.0 billion to $4.25 billion offer.
Tele2 in a statement defended its decision, which has left Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s A1 saying it could take legal action to secure its right to buy Tele2 Russia.
“The Board of Directors’ decision to enter into this transaction was based on its experience in owning and successfully developing Tele2 Russia over many years, and a full awareness of all strategic options available,” Tele2 said.
Tele2 said already last week it was committed to its deal with VTB. Tele2 is Russia’s fourth-biggest mobile operator with around 23 million subscribers after MTS, MegaFon and Vimpelcom, but does not have a 3G or 4G license in Russia.
The company said the terms of its deal with VTB, which it expected to be completed shortly, included provisions under which Tele2 for 12 months after closing had rights to half of net cash profits obtained by VTB from certain types of transfers of Tele2 Russia shares and assets.