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Telenor pays $374.4 million to raise stake in Russian firm to 36.4%

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Norwegian telecom operator Telenor ASA Wednesday said it has withdrawn all its claims against Altimo Holdings & Investments Ltd., Altimo Cooperatief and VimpelCom, after it purchased 234 million preferred shares in Russian carrier VimpelCom Ltd.

The deal takes Telenor's voting stake in the Vimpelcom to 36.4% from 25%. Telenor said it paid $374.4 million for the stake.

"This transaction takes Telenor to approximately the same voting position as a successful outcome of the arbitration process would have achieved, and is therefore a commercial solution we are happy with," Telenor Chief Executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas said in a statement.

"We will work to expand the VimpelCom board to 11 members. Together with the other shareholders we will continue our contribution to the industrial development of VimpelCom as we always have done".

The dispute between Telenor and Altimo, the telecoms arm of Russian conglomerate Alfa Group, began when Telenor last year opposed VimpelCom's stock-and-cash acquisition of Wind Telecom, which was controlled by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.

Telenor said it acquired the 234 million shares in VimpelCom from Weather Investments II S.a.r.l., Sawiris's investment vehicle. Telenor said it and Weather have entered certain "put and call arrangements" regarding the remaining 71 million preferred shares in VimpelCom held by Weather.

The withdrawal of the arbitration claim will enable "a more normal corporate governance situation in VimpelCom," Telenor said, adding that it will result in the termination of the VimpelCom shareholders agreement.

"Together with the other shareholders we will continue our contribution to the industrial development of VimpelCom as we always have done," Baksaas said.

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