- LetterOne, Telenor may sell as much as 89% shares in carrier
- The duo discussed VimpelCom sale to Hutchison, Vedomosti says
VimpelCom Ltd., a telecom carrier with more than 200 million customers in countries spanning Russia to Bangladesh to Italy, filed regulatory documents for the sale of as much as $6.1 billion of its stock by the company’s biggest investors.
Selling shareholders may dispose 1.57 billion shares, an 89 percent stake, VimpelCom said in a U.S. regulatory filing Thursday. The amount matches the total owned by LetterOne Holdings SA, the investment firm backed by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, and Norway’s Telenor ASA. Telenor said last year it would divest its 33 percent stake.
LetterOne and Telenor have discussed the possible sale of their VimpelCom stakes to CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd., Russia’s Vedomosti daily reported, citing unidentified people. Such a deal might exclude the Russian unit, the newspaper said.
The regulatory filing is a technical amendment to give flexibility to shareholders, Vimpelcom said in a statement. Hutchison declined to comment. Representatives for LetterOne and Telenor had no immediate comment.
Billionaire Li Ka-Shing’s Hutchison separately plans to combine its Italian unit with VimpelCom’s, a deal that faces European Union antitrust scrutiny.
The prospectus “basically gives shareholders a free hand to sell their stakes in whatever combination they choose," said Alexander Vengranovich, analyst at Otkritie Capital. "If Hutchison’s asset merger with VimpelCom in Italy doesn’t get approved, buying into the entire VimpelCom may be a good alternative."