MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian group Vimpelcom’s VIP.N bid for Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris’s telecoms businesses has reignited a feud between its two top shareholders — Norway’s Telenor (TEL.OL) and Russia’s Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa-Group.
Telenor has launched legal action against Vimpelcom in a bid to derail the deal, much to the fury of Alfa’s telecoms unit Altimo.
Here is a brief history of Vimpelcom and relations between Telenor and Alfa-Group:
1992 - Vimpelcom founded by Russian engineer turned entrepreneur Dmitry Zimin, with a background in missile defense systems development, and Chicago businessman Augie Fabela.
1994 - Commercial operations begin under the Bee Line brand.
1996 - Vimpelcom becomes the first Russian company to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange since the Trans-Siberian Railway in the early 1900s.
March - Telenor signs a contract to buy a 35 percent stake in Ukrainian operator Kyivstar - expanding into the former Soviet Union.
December - Telenor receives a 25 percent stake in Vimpelcom in exchange for $160 million in cash.
2001 - Vimpelcom signs an agreement with Eco Telecom, a unit of Alfa Group, which gets a 25 percent stake in exchange for cash Vimpelcom needs to finance its regional expansion.
2002 - Telenor increases stake in Kyivstar to 55.35 percent. Alfa Group acquires Storm, the other major owner of Kyivstar.
2004 - Vimpelcom starts to expand beyond Russia, buying Kazakh mobile operator Kar-Tel. In 2005-6 it also expands into Ukraine, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Armenia.
Telenor increases its ownership in Kyivstar to 56.5 percent, while Alfa increases its ownership to 43.5 percent.
Vimpelcom proposes to buy Ukrainian mobile operator URS, a deal that is backed by Alfa but opposed by Telenor, which considered the price too high.
Alfa’s unit Storm starts a four-year long boycott of Kyivstar’s board of directors’ meetings, which under Ukranian law meant that no shareholders meetings could be held.
2005- Legal actions begin between the two shareholders over the URS purchase.
2006 - Telenor begins arbitration in New York against Alfa Group, claiming Alfa had broken the Kyivstar shareholder agreement.
2006-7 - Alfa Group increases ownership in Vimpelcom to 44 percent of the voting stock. Telenor increases ownership to 29.9 percent.
2007 - Telenor decides to deconsolidate Kyivstar from its accounts.
Aug - Telenor wins New-York arbitration case. The court award orders Alfa to return to Kyivstar’s shareholder and board meetings and to reduce its stake in competing businesses like Astelit and Ukrainian High Technologies to below five per cent.
Nov - The U.S. Federal court granted Telenor’s motion requesting that Alfa be held in contempt of court for its failure to obey the arbitration award. The court imposes daily fines for non-compliance.
April - A British Virgin Islands-registered company called Farimex, a tiny shareholder in Vimpelcom, sues Telenor in a Siberian court, claiming the Norwegian company’s opposition to Vimpelcom’s purchase of URS delayed the deal at a loss to Vimpelcom.
Telenor repeatedly says it believes Farimex is linked to Alfa Group. Alfa denies any links to Farimex.
July - Vimpelcom makes first move to expand outside the CIS, setting up a joint venture in Vietnam. It continues its Asian expansion in 2008-2009 by buying a 90 percent stake in Cambodian company Sotelco from Alfa Group and buying a controlling stake in Lao Co from Millicom MICsdb.ST.
Dec - Storm attends two Kyivstar shareholder meetings for the first time since 2005. Quorum is established and accounts and dividends for 2004 and 2005 are approved. As a result the U.S. court remitted the contempt fines imposed.
Feb - Court rules in favor of Farimex and ordered Telenor to pay $1.73 billion to Vimpelcom.
March - Bailiffs seize Telenor’s stake in Vimpelcom as the Norwegian company refuses to pay.
April - Vimpelcom’s chief executive Alexander Izosimov resigns ahead of his contract expiring in December, citing family reasons.
Oct - Telenor and Alfa announces a peace deal, combining their holdings in Vimpelcom and Kyivstar in a new U.S. listed company Vimpelcom Ltd and reappointing Izosimov as CEO.
April - Vimpelcom completes merger with Kyivstar.
Oct - Vimpelcom unveils a proposed bid for 51.7 percent of Orascom Telecom ORTE.CA and 100 percent of Italy’s Wind from Naguib Sawiris - a deal initially supported by Telenor.
Dec - Six of nine members of Vimpelcom’s board vote in favor of the deal, with three Telenor-nominated directors against, and the board entrusting the management with revising the deal in an attempt to gain Telenor’s support.
January 16 - Six members of Vimpelcom’s board vote in favor of the deal, with the three Telenor-nominated directors again opposing. Vimpelcom calls a special shareholder meeting to vote on the deal on March 17. The outcome will depend on minority shareholders.
January 31 - Telenor launches legal action against Vimpelcom in an apparent attempt to block the deal in the event of likely defeat in the shareholder vote. Alfa warns the deal could collapse by the end of June if not resolved by then.
Feb 8 - Telenor tells Vimpelcom to sort out market share declines in its core Russia market before embarking on ambitious plans overseas. It also unveils fourth quarter results that beat expectations.
Reporting by Maria Kiselyova, Editing by John Bowker and Greg Mahlich