Reuters: Russia’s No. 3 mobile phone operator, MegaFon, said on Tuesday it planned to open a representative office in Iran and was considering long-term investments in the Middle Eastern country’s telecoms sector. MOSCOW, Feb 19 (Reuters) – Russia’s No. 3 mobile phone operator, MegaFon, said on Tuesday it planned to open a representative office in Iran and was considering long-term investments in the Middle Eastern country’s telecoms sector.
MegaFon said in a statement its board had decided to register a wholly-owned new subsidiary, MegaFon International, which will develop the operator’s foreign projects.
“We consider foreign markets, both in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and other emerging countries as a possible vector of our development,” MegaFon’s First Deputy General Director Alexei Nichiporenko, who has been appointed as the head of MegaFon International, said.
“We are considering long-term investment opportunities in the Iranian telecommunication sector and by opening a representative office and revealing our presence we will support these opportunities,” he said.
MegaFon currently has more than 36 million clients mainly in Russia, lagging behind market leaders Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) and Vimpelcom. Besides Russia, MegaFon’s only other part of the ex-Soviet pie is Tajikistan.
MegaFon is unlisted as its plans for an initial public offering have been complicated by a shareholder dispute. MegaFon’s General Director Sergei Soldatenkov told Reuters in an interview last month the company hoped to go public in 2009 amid signs the row was now close to resolution.
Bermuda-based fund IPOC had been disputing a 25.1 percent stake which Altimo, the investment vehicle of Russia’s Alfa Group, bought in 2003.
But in November last year, Altimo said the dispute had been settled and the parties had agreed to end all court actions and renounce all legal claims against each other.
Apart from Altimo, MegaFon’s major shareholders include Sweden’s TeliaSonera, which holds a 43.8 percent stake, and Russia’s Telekominvest with 31.3 percent. IPOC has an 8 percent stake in the firm.
The Russian cellphone market is close to saturation and operators are looking to expand in faster-growing markets.
Russian services conglomerate Sistema, which controls MTS, Russia’s largest cellphone provider, plans to invest up to $7 billion in creating a national operator in India, the world’s fastest-growing telecoms market. Vimpelcom last year set up a joint venture in Vietnam, planning to invest up to $1 billion, while Altimo, which has 44 percent in Vimpelcom, had earlier bought 90 percent of Cambodian mobile operator Sotelco. (Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by David Cowell)