Telia Company yesterday (5 December 2018) announced the sale of its 94% stake in Uzbek mobile operator Ucell to the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Assistance to Privatized Enterprises and Development of Competition for USD215 million on a debt free basis. The divestment of Ucell (registered as Coscom) represents the fifth operator sell-off in the Swedish group’s strategic exit from all its ‘Eurasian’ markets to focus on Nordic and Baltic markets. The transaction is not subject to any regulatory or competition approvals, and Telia stated it would be completed within a day of the announcement.
Telia Company added that it has complied with all requirements of its September 2017 Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) with respect to the Ucell transaction. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Telia reached a final settlement with the DOJ, the US Securities & Exchange Commission and the Dutch Public Prosecution Service in September 2017, agreeing to pay USD965 million in sanctions related to investigations into corruption in Uzbekistan. Earlier, a 6% stake in Ucell was seized and transferred to authorities in the Netherlands in Q4 2016 after a court found holding company Takilant – associated with Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbekistan’s then-President Islam Karimov – complicit in state bribery. Telia had sold a 26% stake in Ucell to Takilant for USD50 million in 2007 before buying back 20% for USD220 million in 2010.