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Russian antitrust wants court to postpone Telenor case for month

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MOSCOW, Oct 3 (PRIME) -- Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service wants the Moscow Arbitration Court to postpone hearings of its lawsuit contesting Norway’s Telenor deal to increase its stake in Amsterdam-based VimpelCom Ltd. for one month from October 17, the antitrust service’s Director Igor Artemyev said Wednesday.

“I think there is no point in having the hearings on the 17th (of October). This could be easily postponed for a month,” he said.

The dispute can still be settled amicably, Artemyev said, adding “we should reach an agreement anyway, I’m convinced.

VimpelCom Ltd. is the sole owner of major Russian mobile operator VimpelCom.

The Federal Antimonopoly Service applied to the court in April seeking to cancel Telenor’s deal to increase its voting stake in VimpelCom Ltd., to 36.36% from 25.01% in February by acquiring 234 million preferred shares of VimpelCom Ltd. from Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris’ Weather Investments II for U.S. $374 million.

The court later imposed a range of injunctions against VimpelCom Ltd., which forced the company to delay the payment of dividends for 2011. Russia’s VimpelCom and Telenor filed claims to void the injunctions, but the Moscow Arbitration Court and the Ninth Arbitration Court rejected the claims in June and in September, respectively.

Telenor further increased its voting stake in VimpelCom Ltd. to 39.51% in April. On Monday, Telenor said it had again increased its stake to 42.95% by acquiring a 3.5% stake in VimpelCom Ltd. from Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris’ Weather Investments II under an option deal concluded in February. VimpelCom Ltd., however, decided to postpone the registration of the stake transfer, as recommended by the antimonopoly service.

Another key shareholder, Russian financial and industrial conglomerate Alfa Group’s subsidiary Altimo, owns a 25.0% voting stake in VimpelCom Ltd., while Weather Investments II holds an 18.3% voting stake.

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