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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Alfa Won't Part With Vimpelcom

Alfa Group is not keen to sell its stake in Vimpelcom to Telenor, its Norwegian partner in the country's No. 2 mobile network, its head said in an interview on Thursday.

Mikhail Fridman said he had big ideas for building up his small fold of telecom assets and might consider bidding for state fixed-line telecoms if the government decides to privatize them.

"I don't think Telenor will consolidate [Vimpelcom] soon. We don't want to sell. I don't think it is in Telenor's interests to control a Russian company," Fridman said.

Telenor says it wants to exit or consolidate companies where it holds minority stakes. But the Norwegian company has also voiced concern about telecoms regulators' intention to cap foreign stakes at 50 percent.

Alfa Group, an oil to banking consortium, bought into the telecoms business three years ago by taking a stake of more than 40 percent in Golden Telecom, a top fixed line carrier. It followed up with Vimpelcom, taking a stake of more than 25 percent alongside Telenor, which owns 29 percent.

It is a partner of Telenor in Kyivstar, Ukraine's top mobile operator. Analysts suggest a tie-up between Kyivstar and Vimpelcom could be possible. Alfa is also negotiating the tie-up of Golden Telecom with Combellga, a Telenor-owned Russian telecoms and Internet provider.

Fridman said Vimpelcom, a start-up launched in the early 1990s by a military communications specialist and his American partners, which is now worth well over $2 billion, epitomized his favorite kind of deal: a company created from scratch.

"I like this business. It didn't exist 10 years ago." He declined to comment on his plans to develop Vimpelcom and Golden Telecom: "We have a lot of ideas about this."

Fridman's Alfa Group, together with partners, agreed to sell half their oil company TNK to BP for $6.75 billion in cash and equity. It is now seen as best positioned among Russian business groups to make big-ticket investments.

In addition to re-investment in oil and gas, he said he was keen to invest more in Alfa's telecoms and retail operations, in Russia as well as Ukraine.