Russia’s Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) has agreed terms to return to the Uzbek mobile market, after being controversially ejected from the country by state authorities in the second half of 2012. Russian daily Ria Novosti cites a spokesperson for the State Committee for ICT (CCITT) as saying that the company has agreed to establish a joint venture with the government although the precise terms were not revealed, as the documents are yet to be signed. Under the pact, the duo will launch a new mobile operator using the MTS brand of the Russian parent. In a previous announcement Vladimir Yevtushenkov – the principal owner of AFK Sistema, which has a majority stake in MTS – told reporters that MTS would have control of the cellco. As previously noted by CommsUpdate, Yevtushenkov announced late last month that most of the terms for MTS’s return to the market had been hammered out, with one exception, although the official did not elaborate further.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, MTS Uzbekistan – the largest cellco in the country at the time – had its licences revoked by Uzbek authorities in August 2012. The company faced a host of accusations, including tax evasion, money laundering and fraud charges, as well as charges of violating anti-monopoly, consumer protection and advertising laws. MTS claimed throughout the proceedings that the cellco was on the receiving end of a shake-down by the notoriously corrupt regime, accusing authorities of attempting to illegally appropriate the cellco. In a similar incident, MTS’s subsidiary in Turkmenistan was kicked out of the market in December 2010, also under suspicious circumstances, only to relaunch operations in July 2012, albeit with an obligation to hand over 30% of its net profits to the government.