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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

TeliaSonera Coy on Report of Megafon Swap

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- TeliaSonera, the Nordic region's biggest telecom service provider, said Thursday it was "very committed" to expanding its Fintur business, which has mobile phone assets in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Newspaper Kommersant reported earlier that TeliaSonera may offer Russia's Alfa Group a controlling stake in Fintur Holdings BV, swapping it for a 25-percent stake in Russia's third-largest cellphone operator, Megafon.

Fintur has substantial cellular assets in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Georgia. TeliaSonera already controls 43.8 percent in Megafon.

Samppa Seppala, chief spokesman for TeliaSonera International, said the firm would not comment on rumors, but said: "We are committed to developing our Megafon operations further, but we are also very committed to developing our Fintur operations."

Alfa officials were unavailable for comment.

In August, Alfa acquired 25.1 percent of Megafon in addition to its 25-percent stake in rival Vimpelcom, which it controls jointly with Norway's Telenor.

Analysts have said Alfa could try to merge Megafon and Vimpelcom, a move said to be opposed by Megafon's current shareholders, including TeliaSonera.

Alfa could be interested in acquiring Fintur as it would help Vimpelcom to expand in former Soviet republics and catch up with its main rival MTS.

TeliaSonera controls 58.55 percent of Fintur. The remaining 41.45 percent is controlled by Turkey's Turkcell, in which the Nordic firm owns 37 percent.

Fintur controls 51 percent of Kazakh K-Cell, 77 percent of Moldova's Moldcell, 64 percent of Azeri Azercell and 78 percent of Georgia's Geocell. The four firms dominate their countries' markets.