VimpelCom Seeks Mergers in Canada, Control in Algeria, CEO Says

VimpelCom Ltd, an international mobile operator co-owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman and Norway’s Telenor ASA, may consider acquisitions to expand in Canada, its Chief Executive Officer said.

VimpelCom’s unit Orascom gained control of Wind Mobile Canada last month after the acquisition of shares from founder Anthony Lacavera, according to a regulatory filing. The Toronto-based operator has about 600,000 subscribers.

“We have an interesting opportunity in Canada,” VimpelCom CEO Jo Lunder said in an interview during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “There is a strong economy with relatively high average revenue per user.”

VimpelCom may consider organic growth or acquisitions to expand in the North American country, Lunder said, declining to elaborate. Roger Wireless Communications Inc., Bell Mobility Inc. and Telus Corp. are among Canada’s largest mobile phone operators.

Separately, Lunder said VimpelCom is “optimistic” about resolving its long-running dispute with the Algerian government regarding ownership of local operator Djezzy. “We have asked for a few things on this deal,” Lunder said. “We’ve asked for operational control of the company, for the ability to consolidate, and we’ve asked for a fair valuation.”

Djezzy, which had a margin of about 59 percent on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in the third quarter, is one of VimpelCom’s most profitable assets. The Algerian government has been in talks with the Russia-focused company for more than a year about buying a controlling stake.

VimpelCom acquired Djezzy and a stake in Wind Mobile Canada as a part of its 2011 acquisition of telecommunications assets from Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris. The deal made VimpelCom the world’s six-largest mobile operator by users and boosted its debt, which stood at $26.6 billion as of Sept. 30.

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