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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Telenor Says Court to Consider Motion to Halt Shares Transfer

OSLO — Norway’s Telenor said Tuesday that a Moscow court had agreed to hear on July 21 a motion to halt the transfer of its shares in mobile firm VimpelCom to the government agency in charge of auctioning them off.

“We’ll do whatever we can to stop a potential forced sale,” Telenor spokesman Dag Melgaard said.

He added, however, that a separate motion for a stay of execution of the transfer of its shares to the Federal Property Management Agency, until after the court hearing, had been denied.

VimpelCom, Russia’s second-biggest mobile operator, is 44 percent owned by billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group, while Telenor owns 29.9 percent.

The Federal Court Marshals Service was ordered last month to auction the shares and the property agency was entrusted with organizing the sale. The marshals plan to sell Telenor’s stake to cover a $1.7 billion fine awarded by a Siberian court, which had ordered the Norwegian group to pay to VimpelCom damages after tiny shareholder Farimex claimed Telenor had held back VimpelCom’s expansion in Ukraine.

Telenor is contesting this ruling, which it views as part of its protracted dispute with Alfa Group, although Alfa has denied links to Farimex. Telenor’s appeal against the fine is due to be heard by another Siberian court on Sept. 30, but bailiffs have said the hearing of the appeal would not halt enforcement or stop them from selling the stake.

Melgaard said Telenor was confident the shares would not be transferred before July 21, even though the motion for a stay had been denied.

“They have said that a preparation of the sale will take at least two months … so there is no clear and present danger of that,” Melgaard said.