TeliaSonera vindicated

HELSINKI/STOCKHOLM – An international tribunal has ruled that Turkey’s Cukurova Group is obliged to sell its shares in mobile telecoms group Turkcell to TeliaSonera, the Nordic firm said yesterday, but analysts said the battle for the Turkish mobile telecoms firm may drag on. TeliaSonera launched its action after Cukurova pulled out of a deal to sell the Nordic firm its remaining shares in Turkey’s leading mobile operator for $3.1 billion (-2.4 billion). The deal would have raised Telia’s effective ownership in Turkcell to 64.3 percent. TeliaSonera said in a statement yesterday that the Geneva-based International Chamber of Commerce found that its 2005 agreement with Cukurova was binding, and that the Turkish group is obliged to work to close the deal. «I am, of course, very pleased with this decision, which is in line with what we have claimed all the time,» TeliaSonera’s CEO Anders Igel said in a statement. «We hope to conclude the transaction with Cukurova but even if the share purchase agreement is binding, we do not yet know if Cukurova is willing to, or able to, proceed with a transfer of the shares to TeliaSonera.» TeliaSonera shares were up 1.8 percent at 56.25 crowns at 10.15 GMT against a fall of 0.5 percent in the wider Stockholm market. TeliaSonera Eurasia President Erdal Durukan said the court ruling was «final and binding.» He said the situation was complicated but not irreversible even though Cukurova has sold part of its stake to Russia’s Alfa Group. «What is important is Cukurova’s attitude,» he said. Analysts said the end of the battle might be some time coming. «This will be a stretched-out process,» said Bengt Molleryd, analyst at Standard & Poor’s Equity Research. «Telia is clearly adding a disclaimer about Cukurova’s intention or ability to meet its obligation.» Ender Oznam, senior analyst at Oyak Securities in Turkey, said that «the transfer of shares to TeliaSonera seems (likely) to take some time and possibly counter legal actions may follow from both Cukurova and Alfa.» The Nordic telecoms firm said the tribunal also ruled that Cukurova might be liable to pay any damages caused by the delay in closing the deal. Cukurova sold part of its stake in Turkcell in 2005 to Altimo, the telecoms arm of Russian billionaire businessman Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group. TeliaSonera currently has 37.3 percent of Turkcell.

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