More Expensive Handsets Push 2007 Yevroset Sales to $5.6Bln

Yevroset, the country's largest mobile phone retailer, said Monday that sales rose 21 percent last year on higher demand for more expensive handsets.

Revenue climbed to a record $5.61 billion, from $4.62 billion a year earlier, Yevroset said in an e-mailed statement. That beat the target of about $5.5 billion that the company set in June. Handset sales increased 4.2 percent to 12.6 million at an average price of $201, or 6.1 percent more than in 2006.

Russians bought 32.5 million handsets last year, a 10 percent increase on 2006, as rising incomes made mobile phones more affordable, Yevroset spokesman Ochir Mandzhikov said Monday. The market may grow 8 percent to 35 million units, worth $7.5 billion, this year as shoppers choose higher-priced phones, he said.

Yevroset, whose market share in the country reached 35 percent last year, expects sales to rise 6 to 8 percent in 2008, Mandzhikov said. Yevroset had 5,145 outlets in 11 former Soviet countries at the end of last year. Apart from handsets, it sells digital cameras, accessories and services.

The retailer is considering selling a stake to an investor to help restructure its debt, co-owner and chairman Yevgeny Chichvarkin said. No talks are being held currently, he added, declining to elaborate on a possible size of the offering.

"The intention didn't go anywhere," Chichvarkin said Monday. "We've been talking about it for the past five years. We are getting offers and everything is discussable."

Yevroset may sell as much as 25 percent of the company to help restructure about $840 million of debt, president Alexei Chuikin said, Vedomosti reported Monday. The company may sell a controlling stake, Chichvarkin said, the newspaper reported.

Owners may sell about 20 percent of the retailer in an initial public offering this year, Chichvarkin said on June 19.

"We are considering an IPO, but the market is bad and it shouldn't be done now," he said in Monday's interview.