BelTA reports that Beltelecom and Russian giant Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) have ‘prolonged the permission’ to sell the state’s 51% share in Belarusian mobile carrier MTS Belarus to a third party. Beltelecom director general Sergei Popkov is quoted as saying that the government is till in the hunt for a buyer for its holding – MTS of Russia owns the remaining 49% – and that the State Property Committee is ‘working on it’. Belarusian minister for information technologies and communications, Nikolai Pantelei, confirmed that finding a buyer was still firmly on the agenda. ‘The price has been determined. Everything will depend on the availability of potential buyers,’ he explained.
The government of Belarus earlier confirmed plans to sell its majority stake in MTS Belarus for USD1 billion, despite apparent disinterest to date from potential buyers. Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) of Russia, which owns 49% of the cellco, has long argued that the USD1 billion valuation is inflated and to bear this out, the state has spent over a year now trying – unsuccessfully – to offload its equity stake. It is thought that along with MTS, Turkish mobile network operator Turkcell and an Iranian investment vehicle are reportedly interested in the stake. The date of the auction has yet to be finalised.