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Russia telecom market not down sharply


DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Vimpelcom, Russia's No.2 mobile carrier, does not think the Russian consumer telecommunications market is shrinking that much and sees the economy rebounding faster than after the 1998 crisis.
"I don't think we are going to see that much of a contraction because we are not a corporate driven business, we are mainly a consumer business," Chief Executive Officer Alexander Izosimov told Reuters at the World Economic Forum.
"Talking to the bankers here we feel much better, much healthier," he said, adding that he did not expect Russians to economise dramatically in terms of communication.
Izosimov said his investment plans for 2009 were uncertain. "What we do currently is we postpone investments," he said.
But he said the economy should rebound more quickly than after the 1998 financial crisis in Russia.
"Unlike in '98 when there was a state of panic ... everybody is pretty focused and companies are implementing defensive measures and adjusting their operations so as soon as there is a bit of tailwind Russia will come back to normal growth and strong growth actually," he said.
Izosimov said Vimpelcom could comfortably meet its debt obligations out of its own cash flow but would restructure its debt to reduce the amount that is foreign currency denominated if the markets allowed.
"Our expansion plans will depend on development of financial markets," he said.

Vimpelcom's major shareholders include Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's business empire Alfa Group and Norwegian telecoms company Telenor.
Vimpelcom's license portfolio covers 340 million people and as of September 30 had 57.8 million subscribers.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, writing by Emma Thomasson, editing by Mike Peacock) Keywords: DAVOS VIMPELCOM/ ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , +41798822009)

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