MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s competition watchdog said on Wednesday its bid to overturn Telenor’s recent increase of its stake in mobile operator Vimpelcom was supported by the government’s powerful commission on foreign investment.
Telenor boosted its voting stake in Vimpelcom in mid-February in a surprise deal with Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris’s company Weather, which saw the Norwegian group taking back partial control of Vimpelcom from Russia’s Altimo.
However, Russia’s Federal Anti-monopoly Service (FAS) filed a claim in a Moscow arbitration court last month, alleging the deal between Telenor and Weather violated the Russian Strategic Investment Law.
“Today we were talking about our actions in respect of the purchase by Norway’s Telenor of (a stake in) Vimpelcom,” the head of FAS, Igor Artemyev, told reporters after a meeting of the foreign investment commission which he attended.
“It (Telenor’s stake purchase) was done without permission of the foreign investment commission. Today we have got full support of our actions, in particular (our) appeal to court.”
The Government Commission on Monitoring Foreign Investment, chaired by Russian Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin, has sweeping authority over foreign investment in Russian companies.
The Moscow arbitration court issued an injunction order late last month prohibiting Telenor from voting with its shares in Vimpelcom to change the composition of its board and exercising its option to buy more shares.
It also scheduled the first hearing on the merits of FAS’s claim for October 17.
Telenor’s shares closed down 0.8 percent. At 1640 GMT, Vimpelcom’s New-York listed stock was down 1.7 percent.