Telenor reaffirms interest in divesting VimpelCom assets

Telenor is still investigating options for selling its $2.4 billion stake in VimpelCom after announcing its intention to divest in October last year.

The Norwegian firm’s CEO Sigve Brekke confirmed that the company was coordinating with financial advisers on how best to shift the 33% holding, but noted that this was currently “in a planning phase”. Recent reports have indicated that Telenor could face difficult in finding a buyer.

Brekke described the experience of holding shares in VimpelCom as “challenging”, and added that it would be “some time” before Telenor would be able to sell up. Industry analysts have noted that there are few viable options for a sale.

A seemingly logical buyer would be Mikhail Fridman’s LetterOne as it holds the majority 48% stake in VimpelCom, but Carnegie analyst Haavard Nillsson has argued that this option would “leave Telenor with little bargaining power if they want to sell all in one.” Additionally, the two companies have rarely seen eye to eye.

Nillsson noted that the strategic importance of telecommunications infrastructure in Russia will make finding a buyer all the more difficult. VimpelCom CEO Jean Yves Charlier has confirmed that the operator would be happy for Telenor to sell shares via public offering, which would allow Telenor to avoid selling to LetterOne.

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