TeliaSonera speaks ahead of allegations against Uzbek operations
Nordic carrier TeliaSonera has voiced concerns over recent development relating to the business climate in Uzbekistan ahead of allegations, due to be broadcast today, against the carrier’s operations in the country.
The allegations will be broadcast in a story on current affairs programme Uppdrag Granskning and are believed to be related to agreements TeliaSonera established with local company Takilant Limited.
TeliaSonera entered into an agreement with Takilant to acquire a 3G licence, frequencies and number series in exchange for $30 million and a 26% stake in, what is now its subsidiary, Ucell. The acquisition enabled the carrier to enter the market in 2007.
In a statement TeliaSonera said that at the time of the acquisition a background check on Takilant was carried out to ensure that the company had the necessary permits and was the owner of the assets. The carrier stated that it ascertained the persons representing the company had the mandate to so and had no insights as to how Takilant used the proceeds, or of any connections to other persons in Uzbekistan.
TeliaSonera also defended its record in the country, stating that it is one Uzbekistan’s largest tax and continues to invest in infrastructure, contributing to increasing mobile penetration, which has risen from 19% to 90% since TeliaSonera entered the market.
TeliaSonera said that it was monitoring the situation of the country’s largest operator MTS, which lost its licences and has since had its assets seized by the Uzbek government.
“It is one of the worst things which can happen to a telecoms operator, therefore we are closely monitoring the situation,” said Cecilia Edström, head of group communications at TeliaSonera.
The allegations against TeliaSonera come after a shareholder meeting in August, where the carrier said that it would focus more on human rights issues to protect freedom of expression and privacy.
TeliaSonera said it would comment further tomorrow, after the airing of the programme.