Tycoon edges Telenor in Vimpelcom race

Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Altimo firm said Wednesday it had become the biggest shareholder in mobile phone operator Vimpelcom after a $3.6 billion deal with Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris, beating out Norway's Telenor.

The announcement raises the voting shares held by Altimo to just above that controlled by its Norwegian rival Telenor and extends a bitter feud for control of a company with the world's six-largest mobile subscriber base.

The telecoms investment branch of Fridman's Alfa Group said it acquired the 14.8 percent stake from the Egyptian investor's Weather company and bought additional shares on the open market to raise its holding to 40.5 percent.

That just edges the 39.5 percent Norway's global wireless operator achieved earlier this year thanks to a deal with Sawiris that is now being contested by Russia's anti-monopoly authorities.

The New York-listed Vimpelcom Ltd. — famous for the brands Beeline and Wind — closely trails MTS and MegaFon in Russia and is a strong presence on the Italian market.

It reported a jump in second quarter profits to $488 million on Wednesday thanks to favourable currency exchange rates and continued revenue growth in its Russian divisions.

But the company has seen its stock take a 25-percent hit in recent months as court battles leave management stranded and forced to defer lucrative dividend payments to investors.

The Financial Times said Wednesday that the legal battles had also forced Vimpelcom to indefinitely postpone a planned European listing that was aimed primarily at broadening its investor base.

Yet Vimpelcom's American Depository Receipts (ADRs) were still ending a volatile day of New York trading up more nearly 10 percent on news of the Altimo deal.

Investors appeared to be banking on the idea that a truce will soon settle over the company that sees Telenor and Fridman's unit share an equal number of board seats and in effective joint control of the firm.

It was not immediately clear how Telenor intends to respond to the latest move by one of Russia's original and most powerful oligarchs — a man who has previously challenged the Kremlin over a big Arctic oil deal and won.

The Norwegians have fought with Fridman over Vimpelcom's operations in Ukraine and its current struggles in Russia have become a part of official government contacts between Moscow and Oslo.

But Fridman's latest business move is in step with Russian government thinking that would see mutual operation of Vimpelcom by the two enemy camps.

Thursday's edition of the Kommersant business daily said Russia's Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) had come up with four-point peace pact under which Telenor would not fight Fridman's efforts to win parity ownership in Vimpelcom.

The accord — terms of which would in turn approve the Norwegian's own acquisition of the Egyptian tycoon's 11.4-percent stake — would also require Telenor to agree to a Russian chief executive for the phone operator.

Kommersant said that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's official spokeswoman Natalia Timakova had confirmed the outlines of the proposed compromise.

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Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday

Found out what’s going on in Norway on Tuesday with the Local’s short roundup of important news.

Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday
The northern lights in Tromsø. Photo by Lightscape on Unsplash

One in ten international students in Norway has had Covid-19

Ten percent of overseas students studying in Norway, compared to just 2.9 percent of Norwegian students, have had Covid-19, according to the Students Health and Well Being Survey (SHoT).

Some 62,000 thousand of Norway’s 300,000 students responded to the survey.

READ MORE: Are Norway’s Covid-19 numbers on track for reopening?

Overall, nearly three percent said that they been infected with the Coronavirus, just over half have had to self isolate, and 70 percent took tests.

Woman in her 40’s charged with murder

A woman has been charged with murder in Halden, southeast Norway after a body was found in an apartment in the towns centre.

She will be questioned on Tuesday. A public defender has been appointed. 

Six police cars attended the scene at a small housing association in the centre of Halden.

A person found in the same apartment is being questioned as a witness.

Network provider Telenor’s revenues down 2.1 billion kroner compared to last year

Telenor’s revenues are down 2.1 billion in the first quarter and the company has written of its 6.5 billion kroner investment in Myanmar following Februarys military coup.

The mobile network operator became one of the first foreign providers in the country and had gained a 35 percent market share.

However, the country’s new military regime shut down the mobile network on March 15th.

“In Myanmar, we are experiencing a confusing and uncertain situation. We are deeply concerned about the development in the country,” The company stated in its quarterly report.

Norway and Sweden in reindeer border dispute

Swedish Sami reindeer herders will appear in court this week in a case against the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

The Swedish Sami herders believe they have exclusive rights to grazing areas across the Norwegian border because they have lived in the surrounding area for hundreds of years. The Norwegian government rejects these claims.

The reindeer grazing convention will be central to the case; the convention facilitates mutual cross-border grazing for reindeer herds.

Sweden withdrew from the convention in 2005. However, Norway enshrined the convention in law in 2005.

483 Coronavirus infections recorded

On Monday, 483 new cases of Covid-29 were registered, an increase of 75 compared to the average of the previous week.

READ ALSO: Norway considers lifting measures for people who have had their first Covid vaccine 

This is down from 1150 cases registered during the peak of Norway’s third wave on March 16th.

This is partly because fewer infections are registered during weekends and public holidays, causing an uptick on Mondays.