The CEO of Russian bank VTB has confirmed that it intends to sell its interest in Tele2 Russia to state-run operator Rostelecom.
Andrei Kostin noted that VTB was keen to shift the stake as it no longer wishes to be liable for Tele2’s debt, stating: “VTB will fully withdraw from Tele2.” The bank acquired the Russian arm of Sweden’s Tele2 in 2013 for $2.4 billion, at which time it also assumed the unit’s $1.15 billion in net debt.
Tele2 Russia’s value is estimated at around RUB150 billion ($2.3 billion), with VTB’s holding worth an around RUB41.25 billion. However, the ownership structure has several layers: Tele2 Russia is wholly owned by T2 RTK Holding, of which 45% is owned by Rostelecom and 55% by Tele2 Russia Holding – the latter of which is in turn 50% owned by VTB, with the remaining 50% split 40:10 between Invintel and Rossiya Bank.
Rostelecom boss Mikhail Oseevsky said: “It’s too early to talk about the structure of this transaction, since we have not yet moved on to any formal procedures. We have a basic model that requires final reflection and formalisation.”
However, if the deal goes ahead, it could have major ramifications. ComNews reported that some analysts believe a merger between Rostelecom and Tele2 could overtake MTS, becoming the largest operator in Russia.
VTB will not abandon all involvement with Tele2, however – the bank’s chairman Anatoly Pechatnikov confirmed that the companies were still planning to launch an MVNO together in September.