MOSCOW, July 4 (RAPSI) - The High Court of Justice of the Isle of Man has lifted the injunction from the 75,949,000 VimpelCom shares held by Altimo, the telecoms branch of Alfa Group, after settling a dispute between Altimo and MTS over Bitel, the leading telecom provider in Kyrgyzstan, the US Securities and Exchange Commission reported on its website.
The High Court passed the verdict on June 29, giving Altimo free access to 3.68% of VimpelCom shares which were frozen on March 22.
On June 25, Altimo and MTS signed an amicable agreement regarding Bitel, which MTS bought in 2005. According to the document, the sides are to abandon their mutual claims and to stop all litigation. MTS is to receive up to $150 million, which includes the $125 million it has already received.
In 2005, MTS Finance paid $150 million for a 51% stake in Tarino Ltd., which owned 100% of Bitel, and signed a call option to buy out the remaining shares for $170 million by the end of 2006.
Several days later, the Bitel office was raided by little-known Russian company, Rezervspetsmet, which presented the rulings of Kyrgyz courts. MTS lost control of the asset soon afterward. The shareholding was turned over to Kyrgyz mobile operator Sky Mobile in 2006, and following several more transactions, one of which involved Alfa Group, came under VimpelCom’s control.
VimpelCom is 100% owned by the Vimpelcom Ltd holding company, in which Altimo holds 47.85% of voting shares and is therefore one of the mobile operator's largest beneficiaries. The other major beneficiary of Vimpelcom Ltd. is Norway's Telenor, with 42.95% of the holding's voting shares.
MTS and VimpelCom are two of Russia's top three mobile operators.