VimpelCom Appoints Former TNK-BP Executive to Head Russian Unit

VimpelCom Ltd, a wireless operator with 215 million users, named Mikhail Slobodin, a former executive of its billionaire shareholder Mikhail Fridman’s TNK-BP oil business, to head its largest unit in Russia.

VimpelCom appointed Slobodin to lead the unit, which accounts for about 40 percent of the company’s revenue and profit. Fridman and partners sold their holding in TNK-BP to state-run oil producer OAO Rosneft for $14 billion in March.

VimpelCom is lagging behind its competitors OAO Mobile TeleSystems and OAO MegaFon by number of Russian users and network size in the country. The company has been focused on cutting its about $26 billion debt since buying telecommunication assets from Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris in 2011.

“Although investors might be concerned Slobodin does not have telecom experience, he has so far proved to be a strong manager,” Ivan Kim, a VTB Capital analyst, said in a note today. Fridman’s Altimo has been seeking to strengthen management of the Russian unit, Vedomosti said last month.

VimpelCom Chief Executive Officer Jo Lunder said Aug. 7 he had no plans to replace Russia head Anton Kudryashov as he had achieved “substantial improvement” in the country’s business. Kudryashov will be transfered to the head office in Amsterdam to head the group’s business development, VimpelCom said today.

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