INTERVIEW-Vimpelcom says not empire-building
By Georgina Prodhan
BARCELONA, Spain Nov 17 (Reuters) - Russian mobile telecoms group Vimpelcom (VIP.N) has no plans for more international mergers following its controversial $6 billion acquisition of Wind Italy in April, Chief Executive Jo Lunder told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
"We are not building an empire. We are not trying to fill a map with countries. We are here to create value," Lunder said on the sidelines of the Morgan Stanley technology, media and telecoms conference in the Spanish city of Barcelona.
The Wind acquisition turned Vimpelcom into a global player and was intended as a growth plan, but was bitterly opposed by 36-percent owner Norwegian telecoms group Telenor (TEL.OL), which said the deal made no strategic or financial sense.
Lunder defended the deal on Thursday, saying the business was proving resilient as it faces harsh reforms forced by Italy's sovereign debt crisis, and said Vimpelcom took a long-term view of the market.
"There is size and quality and a future for Italy. I think they have a sovereign debt problem right now and they will resolve it. And when that's done I think Italy can easily turn into a very healthy market," he said.
But Lunder said Vimpelcom had no plans for further international expansion, having now achieved the scale it needed to drive knowledge-sharing and procurement efficiencies. "For the time being, that's it. Now it's internal things," he said.
Lunder said Vimpelcom would be interested in consolidation in countries where it was already present -- something for which telecoms operators have long hoped but which has been resisted by regulators and is now hard to finance for many carriers.
"We see clearly a lot of synergies coming out of in-market consolidations, and again, if that's beneficial for Vimpelcom shareholders to participate in that, we are ready to look at it," he said.
(Editing by David Cowell)
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