MOSCOW, June 2 (Reuters) - Telecoms group Turkcell will likely stay locked in a corporate dispute if fellow Turkish group Cukurova pursues its aim of repurchasing a stake in the company, Turkcell’s Russian shareholder Alfa-Group has warned.
Cukurova, headed by one of Turkey’s richest men, Mehmet Karamehmet, and Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa have been fighting for years for control of Turkcell, Turkey’s top mobile phone operator, choking decision-making and preventing the payment of dividends.
A third major investor, Nordic telecoms group TeliaSonera , is cooperating with Alfa.
“In the configuration we’ve had before - Cukurova, TeliaSonera and Alfa - it was very difficult to make decisions and therefore some not very good events have happened,” Alexei Reznikovich, who manages Alfa’s telecom assets, told Reuters.
Alfa appropriated a controlling stake in Turkcell, which had been held by Cukurova, last year when Cukurova defaulted on a $1.35 billion loan. But a British court ruled that Cukurova could recover the stake if it pays $1.6 billion to Alfa by June 24.
“If Cukurova buys the shares, then the status quo will remain. It will be much harder ... than if Cukurova leaves the scene and we stay with Telia. Then corporate governance issues will be resolved, while in such a triangle, I do not understand how they will be resolved,” Reznikovich said.
Alfa wanted to stay in the Turkish market but it was too early to discuss future development possibilities for Turkcell, he said in an interview.
“We will see what happens next if Cukurova buys the shares. The Turkish market is interesting for us and we will be there as long as we believe that we have an opportunity to somehow gain a foothold and develop. If at some point we realise that there is no such possibility, we will leave pragmatically,” he said.
Reznikovich also said he was looking at telecoms deals worth $1 billion or more, primarily in Europe, as well as smaller deals - worth between $20 million and $200 million - in the United States in adjacent sectors, such as building data centres. (Editing by David Holmes)