Russian telecoms group Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) has announced that it has acquired a majority stake in Russian-Uzbek joint venture Universal Mobile Systems (UMS), confirming plans for the new operator to launch commercial services by 1 December 2014. MTS signed a settlement deal with the government of Uzbekistan under which it would take a 50.01% stake in a new mobile operator – the Republic retaining control of the remaining 49.99% – in exchange for dropping its legal proceedings against the government in the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). UMS has been handed the assets of MTS’s former Uzbek subsidiary, which was forced to close in mid-2012 after its licence was revoked by the government under dubious circumstances, the cellco facing accusations ranging from money laundering and tax evasion to violating consumer protection and advertising laws.
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