Russia's Alfa says it has $1.5 billion in Pamplona

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The investment group which this week raised its stake in Italian bank Unicredit CRDI.MI to 5 percent is a quarter funded by billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group, according to the Russian conglomerate.

Alfa Group has about $1.5 billion invested in a number of funds run by private equity and hedge fund Pamplona, Alfa said on Friday.

Russia’s Alfa Group, chaired by Soviet-born Fridman, was a cornerstone investor in London-based Pamplona, which has $6 billion under management, according to its website.

Fridman, who amassed wealth and political influence under former Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, has a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $13 billion.

His Alfa Group owns a 25 percent stake in TNK-BP, a near 25 percent voting stake in mobile firm Vimpelcom VIP.N, and just under 50 percent in leading food retailer X5 PJPq.L. Fridman also owns 36 percent of Alfa Bank.

Alfa said in a statement on its website that as of January 1 it had about $1.5 billion invested in various of Pamplona’s funds, which include Pamplona Global Financial Institutions Fund which has taken a 5 percent stake in Unicredit.

Alfa said it did not have an ownership interest in Pamplona itself, and investment decisions relating to the funds were taken by Pamplona.

The stake in Unicredit was worth about 750 million euros ($935.33 million) and is one of the largest investments by a foreign operator in a listed Italian group this year.

Pamplona - headed by Alex Knaster, a former Alfa Bank Chief Executive - already owned just under 2 percent of UniCredit, a stake too small to be made public under Italian disclosure rules.

It has now added another 3 percent.

Knaster sits on the board of several companies in the Alfa Group, according to Pamplona’s website.

Alfa Group is owned by Mikhail Fridman together with two long-time business partners German Khan and Alexey Kousmichoff, according to the group’s website.

Shares of Unicredit were 5.4 percent higher at 2.75 euros at 0641 EDT.

Reporting By Megan Davies; Editing by David Cowell