August 30, 2017 / 5:55 PM / a year ago

Russia's Sistema says no plans to cut stake in MTS to pay Rosneft

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian conglomerate Sistema (SSAq.L) said on Wednesday it had no plans to reduce its stake in mobile phone operator MTS (MBT.N) to pay oil giant Rosneft (ROSN.MM) a $2 billion (1.55 billion pounds)settlement and would be able to raise the funds from banks.

A court in the Russian region of Bashkortostan ruled last week that Sistema should pay 136.3 billion roubles (1.80 billion pounds)to settle the claim that Rosneft-controlled oil producer Bashneft (BANE.MM) was stripped of assets when Sistema was the owner.

Sistema, controlled by businessman Vladimir Yevtushenkov, has said it plans to appeal.

“We’ll be able to raise the money necessary to comply with the court’s demands from banks. Obviously we’ll have to use our shares in (mobile phone operator) MTS and other assets as collateral. But we can raise this money,” Sistema’s Chief Executive Mikhail Shamolin was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying.

Analysts have said Sistema’s net debt would almost triple should it lose the appeal and that it might have to borrow money, sell assets or take out more dividends from its subsidiaries.

Shamolin said Sistema did not intend to sell MTS shares, news agencies TASS and Interfax reported.

Sistema earlier on Wednesday reported a net loss of 1.3 billion roubles for the second quarter, but said the operation of its businesses had not been affected by the court order and that its financial position remained solid.

New-York listed shares in MTS (MBT.N), Russia’s biggest mobile phone operator, were up 3.5 percent by 1717 GMT at $9.7, while Sistema’s London-listed shares were down 1.9 percent at $3.9.

Sistema also said on Wednesday that it had asked the court to partially lift a freeze on its assets, after it was ordered to pay less in damages to Rosneft than the oil firm had sought.

The court froze 185 billion roubles worth of Sistema assets in June, including 31.76 percent of shares in MTS, 100 percent of shares in clinic chain Medsi and 90.47 percent of Bashkirian Power Grid company.

Sistema requested the release of 6.54 percent of shares in MTS, in which it has a 50 percent stake, as well as its entire interest in Medsi, a spokesman for Sistema said.

The court will consider the request on Sept. 5.

Separately, Sistema continues to contest the court’s decision to freeze its other assets. It said previously that it could not receive any income on the frozen shares and analysts estimated it could miss out on about 15 billion roubles in dividends from subsidiaries this year.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Susan Fenton

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