Russia's MTS to spend $30 million on Ozon stake increase

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's biggest mobile phone operator MTS MBT.N plans to increase its stake in online retailer Ozon through an acquisition of up to 1.7 billion rubles ($30 million) of newly issued shares, it said on Wednesday.

MTS said it would first acquire 1.15 billion rubles of Ozon shares, raising its stake to 13.7 percent from 11.2 percent, and could buy a further 582 million rubles of shares in the next 12 months if required to do so by Ozon.

As a result, MTS’s stake in Ozon, which is often referred to as the Amazon of Russia, will ultimately rise to 14.7 percent, MTS said in a statement.

“Since 2014 ... Ozon has demonstrated impressive growth of revenue and profitability. We believe that now is optimal time to raise our stake in the company, providing Ozon with funds for further development,” MTS CFO Alexei Kornya said.

“Taking into account our recent acquisitions of (event ticketing companies) Tiс and, investments in Ozon will strengthen our e-commerce expertise.”

Ozon said it would raise a total of 3.5 billion rubles via a new share issue, with Baring Vostok being the other principal investor. Investments could rise to 5.25 billion rubles at Ozon’s discretion, the retailer said in a statement.

MTS bought a 10.8 percent stake in Ozon in 2014 for $75 million, alongside its parent company Sistema AFKS.MMSSAq.L which then also acquired 10.8 percent of Ozon shares.

MTS later increased its holdings through a series of deals with Ozon’s minority shareholders.

Reporting by Anastasia Teterevleva and Maria Kiselyova; editing by Jack Stubbs and Louise Heavens