MTS provider may lose $600 million in Turkmenistan

AFP, Thursday 23 Dec 2010

Russia's largest mobile phone company faces losses over dipute with the Central Asian state of Turkmenistan

Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Russia’s largest mobile phone company, said Wednesday it could lose $585 million over the next five years as a result of a dispute with the isolated Central Asian state of Turkmenistan.

Earlier this week, MTS said it had been notified that its license would be suspended for a month effective Tuesday. Turkmenistan's foreign ministry said in a statement earlier Wednesday that the Russian company had been ordered to suspend its operations due to the expiration of a five-year contract, defending the decision by Turkmen authorities as "absolutely rightful and legally justified."

The foreign ministry denied its population of five million was experiencing communication difficulties, saying local mobile providers had all the necessary equipment, personnel and infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted mobile coverage.

"In our financials, the losses will amount to $160 million, or $585 million taking into account an expected profit over the next five years," company chief executive Mikhail Shamolin told reporters in comments later confirmed by a spokeswoman.

The company said it had not received an explanation from the Turkmen government. Opposition news sites in Turkmenistan have said however that the move had come came amid Turkmen efforts to win a 50-percent stake in its subsidiary MTS-Turkmenistan. The company declined to comment on those reports. Its departure may leave the isolated ex-Soviet republic without proper mobile communications for a month.

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