MTS to Bid For Stake in Ukrtelecom

Mobile TeleSystems, the country's largest mobile-phone company, will bid for a stake in Ukrtelecom, Ukraine's national telephone company, in order to expand beyond the home market.

"We're really interested in Ukrtelecom," Andrei Dubovskov, acting chief executive of the Ukrainian unit of MTS, told reporters in Kiev on Monday. "We have been asked to send the government our views on how the auction should be held. We have done this, along with our competitors."

The Ukrainian government owns 92.8 percent of Ukrtelecom and plans to sell a 67.7 percent stake. MTS and its smaller domestic rivals VimpelCom and MegaFon are looking for more assets beyond Russia, where the number of mobile-phone SIM cards has long exceeded the country's population of 142 million people.

Dubovskov said competitors asked for their views were Kyivstar GSM, controlled by Norway's Telenor; VimpelCom, Russia's second-largest mobile-phone operator; and Astelit, which is controlled by Turkcell, Turkey's biggest mobile-phone company.

Ukraine, a country of more than 46 million people, is seeking as much as $7 billion for its stake in Ukrtelecom, a price that Dubovskov said is "too high."

MTS, controlled by billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov's AFK Sistema holding company, has more than 58 million subscribers in Russia and almost 20 million subscribers in Ukraine, where it is the second-largest mobile operator.