Vekselberg, Mamut to Sell Golden Telecom Shares
Russian oil and metals billionaire Viktor Vekselberg and investor Alexander Mamut have agreed to sell their 8 percent in Golden Telecom Inc. (GLDN) to OAO VimpelCom to create Russia's first combined fixed- and mobile-phone provider.
Inure Enterprises Ltd., controlled by Mamut and Vekselberg, has accepted VimpelCom's offer, Mamut said in a telephone interview from Moscow today. The stake is worth $335.3 million, based on the $105 a share VimpelCom offered.
Inure's agreement to sell its stake means VimpelCom will have the minimum 63.3 percent it requires to proceed with its purchase of Golden Telecom for $4.3 billion. Golden Telecom will give VimpelCom, Russia's second-largest mobile-phone operator, more than $1 billion in additional annual revenue, more than 400,000 new broadband Internet customers and a foothold in fixed-line services.
``It is a very strong deal,'' Mamut said. ``It will offer all telecommunications products from one place, VimpelCom.'' He declined to specify how the proceeds from the Golden Telecom sale will be used.
Golden Telecom shares rose 28 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $104.34 at 12:31 p.m. in New York, valuing the company at $4.2 billion. VimpelCom shares fell 58 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $36.33, valuing the company at $37.3 billion.
``This deal is milking VimpelCom,'' Sergei Vasin, a telecommunications analyst at Moscow-based Metropol, said in a telephone interview today. ``Golden Telecom is an overvalued asset.'' Metropol lowered its target price for VimpelCom to $42 from $46 after the companies announced the deal last December. Metropol estimates Golden Telecom is worth $60 a share.
Golden Telecom plans to build a fiber-optic network for more than $1 billion to cover 65 Russian cities and reach 65 million people to offer broadband. VimpelCom wants to capitalize on both fixed-line and mobile broadband with Golden Telecom. Russian Telecommunications Minister Leonid Reiman said broadband clients will double this year, from 4.8 million in 2007.
Telenor ASA (TEL), Norway's largest phone company, Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Altimo and Russia's dominant long- distance provider OAO Rostelecom have agreed to tender their combined 55.9 percent stakes in Golden Telecom.
``All VimpelCom is getting is the expertise in corporate clients,'' Vasin said. ``The project for Golden Telecom to become an all-Russia alternative provider directly competing with Svyazinvest is capital-intensive and not very profitable.''
OAO Svyazinvest is a national fixed-line phone provider.
Mamut said that a decision on whether to sell Inure's 49 percent in Corbina Telecom Group, a Moscow-based broadband Internet provider, will be taken in the middle of this year.
Golden Telecom bought 51 percent of Corbina and is negotiating to buy some or all of Inure's 49 percent. Such a transaction would be instead of Golden Telecom's previous contractual commitment to sell at least 10 percent of Corbina in an initial public offering. VimpelCom Chief Executive Officer Alexander Izosimov has said he will talk to shareholders of Corbina ``to avoid costly listings'' for share sales.
``We are discussing various themes,'' Mamut said. ``All depends on the price and timing. They want to consolidate it and there is logic in it.''
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