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Usmanov, Russian Technologies could merge Megafon, Scartel assets

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MOSCOW. April 10 (Interfax) - Billionaire Alisher Usmanov and state corporation  Rostekhnologii (Russian Technologies) could form a strategic alliance by merging their assets in mobile operator Megafon and wireless broadband provider Scartel (Yota), the Kommersant newspaper said, quoting sources at the telcos.

The owner of a 10% stake in Rostelecom, Konstantin Malofeyev, could join the deal, the paper said. 

Megafon and Rostelecom would get access to LTE 4G frequencies, while Scartel would get access to extensive infrastructure, it said.

Usmanov would contribute his 31.13% of Megafon, in which he owns 8% directly and 23.13% via Telcominvest, and Rostekhnologii (Russian Technologies) 25.1% of Scartel.

None of the parties are officially confirming the deal.

Kommersant's sources say the idea of Konstantin Malofeyev joining the pool was discussed a few months ago, but that partnership with Marshall Capital would be possible only if an injunction on the shares imposed by a London court following a suit brought by VTB is lifted.

Rostelecom does not have an extensive cellular network of its own. An alliance between the state owned company and one of the Big Three cellular providers was discussed when Rostelecom was being reorganized.

As for Scartel, a stake in this company would allow Rostelecom and MegaFon to gain access to LTE licenses throughout Russia right now, before 4G licenses have even been put up for tender. Scartel itself would would benefit from the use of Megafon's and Rostelecom's infrastructure - this could be an alternative to a mobile virtual network operator (MNVO) arrangement that Megafon is currently discussing with Yota to develop LTE networks in Russia.

There have been repeated reports that Megafon, along with other providers such as Rostelecom and Vimpelcom are interested in buying Scartel. At the beginning of last year, the country's four largest telecom companies even signed a letter of intent providing for the option to each buy 20% of Scartel in 2014. Scartel's owners valued the company at $1 billion. State corporation Russian Technologies holds a blocking stake in Scartel, and private investors of the Telconet Capital fund own the remaining 74.9%.

It is hard to say what stake Russian Technologies might expect to obtain in a new alliance but, going by the value of Usmanov's stake in Megafon, it would appear he would have control, Kommersant said, quoting calculations by VTB Capital analyst Viktor Klimov.

But the paper also quotes sources as saying Usmanov has resumed talks to buy the Alfa-Group's telecommunications arm Altimo's 25.1% of Megafon. If this comes off, Usmanov's stake in the new holding could be worth more than $10 billion.

TeliaSonera, which owns 43.77% of Megafon, is not mentioned among parties to the deal.

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