VimpelCom Seeks Approval for Yevroset Stake

VimpelCom chief executive Alexander Izosimov said in an interview late Tuesday that the company filed a request to the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service to buy a stake in Yevroset.

"This is a normal preparatory move. The deal would be of interest to us," Izosimov said, declining to elaborate.

A source who saw the request said VimpelCom was bidding to buy "more than 25 percent." Altimo, an Alfa Group subsidiary that owns 44 percent of VimpelCom, was also mentioned as a party in the deal, the source said.

Yevroset, the country's largest cell phone retailer, was sold to billionaire Alexander Mamut last month. VimpelCom is Russia's second-largest mobile phone operator.

Mamut, Altimo and the anti-monopoly service did not respond to calls for comment Tuesday evening. Yevroset chairman and former co-owner Yevgeny Chichvarkin said by telephone that he couldn't comment on the matter.

Eldar Murtazin, chief analyst at Mobile Research Group, said Mamut could be buying Yevroset with the aim of passing it on to VimpelCom.

"VimpelCom didn't buy Yevroset directly because it would have spoiled its profitability indicators," he said.

"VimpelCom's EBITDA is about 50 percent, while Yevroset has only about 3 percent," he said, referring to earnings before interest, taxes, debt and amortization. "The deal might be structured … so that Yevroset doesn't directly affect the VimpelCom's results."