Holding company Garsdale Services Investment Limited, which is 82%-owned by Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov, and currently owns 50% of mobile giant MegaFon and 100% of Long Term Evolution (LTE) provider Scartel (Yota), has poured scorn on a recent Vedomosti report linking MegaFon with a potential ‘carve-up’ of Swedish-owned cellco Tele2 Russia. Vedomosti, citing a partner in Garsdale and a member of Tele2’s management team, reported that Garsdale was proposing to buy up all of Tele2’s Russian assets, before dividing them up between the self-styled ‘Big Three’ mobile operators MegaFon, Vimpelcom and Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) in a ‘multi-stage deal’. However, Ivan Streshinsky, CEO of Garsdale, informed Reuters: ‘The facts quoted by Vedomosti are inaccurate and no negotiations are in place’. Vedomosti claimed that Deutsche Bank is advising Garsdale on the deal, with Tele2’s Russian assets valued at between USD2.6 billion and USD4 billion. Last year speculation was rife that Tele2, Russia’s only foreign-owned mobile operator, and its fourth largest in terms of subscribers, was working towards a merger with state-backed Rostelecom following its failure to secure LTE-suitable frequencies in the government’s controversial tender, although the talks were never substantiated.
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