MOSCOW Jan 17 The owner of Russian mobile group
Megafon has been in talks with rivals over a potential
carve-up of Swedish telecom group Tele2's business in
Russia, Vedomosti newspaper reported on Thursday.
Garsdale, an investment vehicle of Alisher Usmanov, Russia's
richest man, the majority owner of Megafon, denied the report.
"The facts quoted by Vedomosti are inaccurate and no
negotiations are in place," said Ivan Streshinsky, CEO of
Garsdale in a statement made through Usmanov's spokeswoman.
Vedomosti, citing a partner in Garsdale and a manager close
to Tele2, said Garsdale was proposing to buy the Tele2 assets,
then divide them up between Megafon, Vimpelcom and MTS
in a multi-stage deal.
The paper said Tele2's Russian assets could be valued at
$2.6 billion to $4 billion, citing an earlier estimate by a
source close to Tele2's shareholders.
Such a deal would be positive for MegaFon, MTS and
Vimpelcom, analysts at Merrill Lynch said in a research note, as
it would reduce competition. But they said it would be negative
for state-controlled operator Rostelecom, as it would
hamper its chances of building a viable mobile business.
Tele2 is Russia's only foreign mobile operator and its
fourth-largest in terms of subscribers. Speculation has
circulated that it may seek a merger with one of bigger rivals
In November, Vedomosti reported that Tele2 and Rostelecom
were discussing a merger of their Russian mobile assets into an
entity that would hand control to Tele2.
Vedomosti also reported that Tele2 president Mats Granryd
denied that Tele2 would sell the Russian business, as the
company still aims to solve a frequency problem in Russia
through an agreement with fourth-generation provider Yota.
Yota is operated by Scartel, also part of Usmanov's stable
following a deal last summer which saw him combine his telecom
assets into a holding company that would own Scartel.
Tele2, Vimpelcom and MTS were not immediately available for
Tele2 has faced obstacles to upgrading its network in
Russia, where it does not have a license to operate 3G or 4G
Last year, Russia postponed a decision on whether to allow
mobile operators to use existing radio frequencies for the
higher speed connections needed for mobile internet access,
rather than having to buy new radio spectrum licenses. This is
seen as crucial for Tele2.
Vedomosti reported that Deutsche Bank is advising Garsdale
on the deal.