Russian group Alfa Telecom ‘ready to sell 13% Turkcell stake’ for $2.7bn

Russian group Alfa Telecom ‘ready to sell 13% Turkcell stake’ for $2.7bn

Alfa Telecom, the Russian investment company controlled by billionaire Mikhail Fridman, is ready to sell a 13.22% stake in Turkcell to Turkey’s Çukurova and Ziraat Bank for a total of around $2.7 billion, according to a statement to the Istanbul stock exchange.

The move reverses Alfa Telecom’s position in only a week. In mid-March Alfa Telecom offered $2.8 billion to buy back a 13.8% stake in Turkcell, a move that would have given Fridman group control of the operator.

But that move was expected to face opposition from Turkish authorities – not just because Alfa has had a decade-long dispute with Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, the founder of Turkcell, but also because Turkey and Russia are on opposite sides in the Syrian civil war.

In its latest statement, Alfa said it was willing to sell 49 class-A shares in Çukurova Telecom Holdings for $54.9 million per share, equivalent to 13.22% of Turkcell.

The move is expected to bring to a climax the long-running dispute between Turkcell and Alfa Telecom – which is controlled by Letterone, an international investment business now based in London that is also the biggest shareholder in VimpelCom.

Two years ago, an international arbitrator ordered Alfa to return a separate 13.8% stake to Çukurova for $1.6 billion. Çukurova, an industrial and commercial conglomerate, financed the purchase with a loan from Ziraat Bank, owned by the Turkish state. Ziraat holds 13.8% of the shares in Turkcell as collateral for the loan – the shares that Alfa offered to buy in mid-March.

In February Turkcell – which has its annual shareholders’ meeting on Thursday – submitted a binding offer to take over TeliaSonera’s shares in a number of operators in south-east Europe and south-west Asia. It said it wanted to buy TeliaSonera’s 58.55% stake in Fintur, to add to its existing 41.45% stake, giving it 100% control.

Fintur has operations in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova. TeliaSonera has already said it wants to sell those investments.

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