Russian national operator Rostelecom has completed a long-gestating deal to acquire a 100% stake in sister company SkyLink, Bloomberg reports. Under the terms of the previously agreed deal, Rostelecom’s Mobitel unit exchanged a 1.91% stake in its parent company, worth around RUB9.4 billion (USD290.1 million), for a 50% stake in SkyLink, with Rostelecom owner Svyazinvest. Mobitel already held a 50% stake in the mobile operator after the first stage of Rostelecom’s plan to buy out its sister company was approved by the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) in November 2011. As a result of the transaction, state-owned telecoms holding company Svyazinvest has seen its stake in Rostelecom increase from 43.37% to 45.28%.
The acquisition of SkyLink is expected to help simplify the impending operational merger between Rostelecom and Svyazinvest, in late-March then-president Dmitry Medvedev ordered the government to complete such a merger within the next twelve months. In the short-term the consolidation is expected to boost Rostelecom’s long-harboured ambition to roll out its own 3G network. In September 2010 former CDMA2000 operator SkyLink announced that it had obtained permits to utilise bandwidth in the 1920MHz-1933MHz and 2120MHz-2125MHz frequency bands for W-CDMA mobile services in Moscow and the north-west, although the concession was later expanded to cover a national footprint.
Indeed, last week RBC Daily reported that Rostelecom planned to launch 3G services in a number of cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg, in early-2013, with 8,000 base stations expected to be deployed in 27 cities. The new network will also be rolled out in Samara, Dagestan and other locations in southern Russia. In related news, Vedomosti reported that Rostelecom has already taken steps to phase out the SkyLink brand, with its existing activities allocated to Rostelecom’s regional branches.