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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Usmanov Eyes Bigger Phone Stake

Billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who last week bought 15 percent of Telekominvest, a key shareholder in MegaFon, said through his office that he wanted to increase his stake in the mobile operator.

Usmanov bought fixed-line operator North-West Telecom's 15 percent stake in Telekominvest for $410 million through a little-known company, AF Telekom Holding, his press office confirmed Tuesday. The deal indirectly gave Usmanov 4.7 percent of MegaFon, the country's third-biggest mobile operator.

St. Petersburg-based Telekominvest, a firm that IT and Communications Minister Leonid Reiman helped found in the 1990s, holds 31.3 percent of MegaFon.

"If an opportunity arises, Usmanov would like to increase his stake in Telekominvest,'' Usmanov's office said.

Usmanov is interested in buying other stakes in Telekominvest, including TeliaSonera's 26.1 percent and Luxembourg-based First National Holding's 58.9 percent, but "it's too early to talk about concrete agreements or deals," the office said, adding that it would be a "purely portfolio investment."

A spokesman for TeliaSonera, Thomas Westlind, said Tuesday that it "has not shown any interest to sell its shares so far. We usually do not comment on internal shareholder dealings but no discussion about selling our shares transpired."

TeliaSonera holds a 35.6 percent stake in MegaFon. Alfa Group's CT Mobile owns a 25.1 percent stake.