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Russian Court Postpones Watchdog and Telenor’s VimpelCom Hearing

A Russian court today postponed a hearing with the country’s Anti-Monopoly Service against Norwegian operator Telenor ASA to Nov. 27, said Andrey Bykasov, a Telenor spokesman in Moscow.

Russia’s anti-monopoly regulator wants to annul deals that earlier this year boosted Telenor’s holdings in Amsterdam-based mobile operator VimpelCom Ltd, which has large assets in Russia.

The Nordic region’s biggest phone company and Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Altimo have been fighting since February for influence over VimpelCom, which also owns assets in Italy, Africa and Asia. Altimo owns 41.9 percent of the voting shares, while Telenor controls 43 percent.

“Telenor has never expressed the intention to control VimpelCom bypassing Russian laws,” Bykasov said by e-mail. “We are still open to an out-of-court solution of the dispute and will continue the dialogue” with Russia’s antitrust regulator.

Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Pinchuk’s 6 percent stake in VimpelCom may be converted into voting shares starting this week. Russia’s antitrust watchdog has proposed that Altimo and Telenor buy Pinchuk’s stake jointly to end the feud, Vedomosti reported Oct. 4.

Telenor spokesman Tor Odland said in an e-mail that the court’s decision was not a surprise for Fornebu, Norway-based Telenor, because the regulator has said it would propose an adjournment to allow for a possible settlement.

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