February 14, 2011 / 11:46 PM / in 7 years

Vimpelcom CEO sees high chance for Wind deal success

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Vimpelcom Chief Executive Alexander Izosimov said there was a high possibility his company would acquire telecommunications assets of Egypt’s Naguib Sawiris even as disgruntled shareholder Telenor is seeking to derail the deal.

“Chances that the deal will happen are still rather high from what I hear from shareholders,” Izosimov told Reuters in an interview on Monday on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Telenor, which owns 36 percent of Vimpelcom, is battling the Russian company’s bid to buy Sawiris’s Italian mobile group Wind and control Egypt’s Orascom Telecom. The deal would dilute Telenor’s holding to a point that it would left “dangerously close” to losing all influence.

A London court on February 25 will hear Telenor’s application for an injunction to prevent dilution of its Vimpelcom stake.

Telenor wants Vimpelcom to give it pre-emptive rights to acquire more shares when Vimpelcom issues stock to Wind’s shareholders if the deal wins approval at a shareholder meeting on March 17.

“It has just highlighted that the truce (between the shareholders of Vimpelcom) was very fragile,” he said.

Telenor is on the brink of re-igniting a long-running corporate war with its partner in Vimpelcom, Alfa Group.

The two merged their Russian and Ukrainian holdings into New York-listed Vimpelcom in 2009, but Alfa Group has voted in favor of the deal with Wind, while Telenor objected to the transaction.

“If parents are quarreling it puts some tension and restriction on the company,” Izosimov told Reuters.

He added that Telenor was missing a “clearly articulated strategy toward Vimpelcom.” Another uncertainty hanging over the deal is the fate of Orascom’s Algerian business, the company’s most lucrative unit, which the Algerian government wants to nationalize.

“We would love to stay (in Algeria) ... we view the market as very attractive but if they insist, we cannot do much. The only issue is a fair price.”

Izosimov added that international or transformational M&A would be a scarce commodity beyond the deal with Wind. “We are ready to do (smaller) consolidation plays,” he said.

Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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