INTERVIEW-MTS eyes acquisitions in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan

ST PETERSBURG, Russia, June 8 (Reuters) - Russia's top mobile carrier MTS MBT.N is looking at acquisition opportunities in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, its Chief Executive Officer Mikhail Shamolin said in an interview.

“There are two countries (where) we are not present yet and I believe we should be present, which is Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan,” Shamolin told Reuters Financial Television on the sidelines of St Petersburg Economic Forum.

In a 11-strong block of former Soviet countries, known as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), MTS has operations in Ukraine, which is its second-biggest market after Russia, as well as Armenia, Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Vimpelcom VIP.N, MTS' main competitor, has more than 6 million subscribers in Kazakhstan, or a 44 percent market share.

Shamolin said MTS did not find it reasonable to start up a new player on the Kazakh and Azeri markets given that competition and mobile phone penetration there are already high.

“We are looking at acquisition opportunities there. We are waiting until the right time comes. When this opportunity shows up then we will consider it carefully.”

He said that the company was not holding specific talks with any Kazakh or Azeri firms.

(Reporting by Kiryl Sukhotski; writing by Maria Kiselyova; editing by Melissa Akin)

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