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Russian Alfa Telecom outbids TeliaSonera for stake in Turkcell
Surprise tender dismissed as mischief related to strife between rival operators
Russian telecommunications operator Alfa Telecom announced on Thursday that is has outbid its Nordic rival TeliaSonera for a stake in Turkey's largest mobile phone operator, Turkcell.
The offer came as a surprise and raised eyebrows both in Scandinavia and Turkey. However, TeliaSonera soon declared that it would complete the transaction agreed on just before Easter with the Turkish Cukurova Group, a family dynasty that is currently Turkcell's second largest shareholder.
"Our only comment is that we have an agreement with the Cukurova Group on the acquisition of the stake in Turkcell, and we will see to it that the transaction will be brought to a close", TeliaSonera's head of corporate communications Michael Kongstad said to the news agency Startel.
A week ago TeliaSonera announced that it would acquire from the Cukurova Group a 27.0 percent holding in Turkcell for a cash consideration of USD 3.1 billion and increase its effective ownership stake to 64.3 percent.
On Thursday, the Cukurova family refrained from commenting on the surprise bid from Alfa. According to the shareholder contract, TeliaSonera will in any case have the pre-emptive right to Turkcell shares.
A source from the Turkish telecommunications field reported that the Turkcell management team was somewhat perplexed on Wednesday after hearing of Alfa's offer.
"No one seemed to know what it was exactly that Alfa wanted", the source revealed.
Alfa Telecom did not reveal how much the company had offered for the stake in Turkcell. The price TeliaSonera has offered already exceeds the current stock rate of Turkcell shares.
A common assumption is that Alfa Telecom's sudden interest in Turkcell has to do with the disputes existing between Alfa and TeliaSonera over the Russian telecoms market.
Analyst Esa Hirvonen, of Mandatum financial services company, commented to Startel that Alfa may have placed the offer simply to annoy TeliaSonera.
A Turkish source believes TeliaSonera's strategy in Turkey is that it will sell its portion of Turkcell as soon as it has secured the controlling interest.
"From TeliaSonera's point of view Turkey is a risk country. It has had a lot of problems with the Cukurova Group. In Turkey the Swedes are more conservative than the Finns and they want out", the source speculates. Hence the price paid was no object.
TeliaSonera closed its Istanbul office at the end of January.