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Russian mobile phone group claims victory in $6bn deal with Egypt's Wind

Vimpelcom's long-running battle for Wind Telecom ends as shareholders vote for deal establishing world's fifth largest telecom group

Reuters, Thursday 17 Mar 2011
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Vimpelcom has claimed victory in a long-running battle for Wind Telecom as the majority of shareholders voted for the deal that will see the Russian mobile phone group take on nearly US$20 billion of debt and diversify into new markets.

The $6 billion plus cash-and-shares bid for control of emerging markets specialist Orascom Telecom and Italy's Wind was backed by 53.3 per cent of voting shares participating in the meeting, Vimpelcom said in a Thursday statement.

Of the company's public shareholders present at the meeting, 60.2 per cent voted against the deal that was also opposed by Norwegian shareholder Telenor, but that wasn't enough to prevent the acquisition being approved following support from key Russian owner Alfa Group.

Telenor, which had claimed that the deal made no strategic or financial sense, said it remained committed to Vimpelcom and would pursue its arbitration proceedings in an effort to avoid its 36 per cent voting stale dilution as a result of the deal.

Altimo, the telecoms arm of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group, has 44.7 per cent of voting rights in Vimpelcom, currently Russia's third-largest wireless carrier by subscribers.

Telenor and Alfa's voting stakes will fall to 25 per cent and 31 per cent respectively following an issue of 326 million common shares and 305 million preferred shares to Wind Telecom's owner, Egyptian tycoon Naguib SawirisTelenor, concerned about dilution of its voting power in Vimpelcom, last week pledged to work constructively with its estranged partners in Vimpelcom even if it fails to block the deal. But it said it would pursue a separate arbitration case to secure its rights to maintain its full Vimpelcom stake.

This case will focus on whether Telenor can take part in Vimpelcom's share issue to Sawiris, which is required to complete the transaction.

Analysts said this would change the structure of the deal in a way that would not benefit Alfa and the Egyptian tycoon.

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