Russian tycoon could take control of Turkcell: source

Workers install the logo of Turkcell, country's top mobile operator, on the Tat Towers in Istanbul, Turkey, June 29, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman could take control of Turkcell TCELL.IS after fellow shareholder Cukurova failed to declare an intent to buy a disputed 13.2 percent stake by a court deadline, a source close to the matter said on Monday.

Alfa Group, part of Fridman’s business empire, has been locked in a decade-long dispute for control of Turkey’s top mobile operator with equity partner Cukurova, run by Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, Turkcell’s founder and one of Turkey’s richest men.

The dispute has prevented some dividends from being paid and has hampered Turkcell’s development.

A London tribunal had set a deadline of Nov. 18 for Cukurova to choose to either buy Fridman’s shares for $2.7 billion or sell its own stake to Fridman for $2.8 billion.

“No declaration was made by the Friday (deadline). Now in line with the court decision, the option of buying has moved to Alfa,” the source said, declining to be named because none of the parties involved have yet commented on the matter.

Fridman indirectly holds 13.2 percent of Turkcell, while Karamehmet indirectly holds 13.8 percent. Swedish phone carrier Telia Company TELIA.ST owns 37 percent.

The source said that under the terms of the London tribunal ruling, Alfa now has the right to buy Cukurova’s stake in Turkcell by a deadline of Nov. 28.

Cukurova did not respond to requests for comment. Alfa Group could not immediately be reached for comment. Turkcell has said in the past that the dispute is between its shareholders and has declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Ceyda Caglayan; Writing by Daren Butler and Nick Tattersall