ArmenTel Sells Its Shares to Russian Firm; Monopoly to be Lifted

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Public Services Regulatory Commission on Tuesday allowed Greece’s Hellenic Telecommunications Organization to sell its 90 percent stake in Armenian Telephone Company (ArmenTel) to Russia’s mobile phone operator VimpelCom. ArmenTel’s manager Vasilios Fetsis said he was happy to transfer the shares to the Russian company. He described VimpelCom as a company that has great experience in the business and the image of a reliable operator. VimpelCom will pay $436.3 million plus about $51 million in debt. Its representative and likely future CEO of ArmenTel Oleg Bliznyuk said they have great plans in Armenia. VimpelCom operates phone services in Russia and Kazakhstan and recently acquired cellular operators in Ukraine, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia. The VimpelCom Group’s cellular license portfolio covers a territory with a population of about 237 million. The company says it will make a $100 million investment in Armenia in 2007 and stresses that they are against any types of monopolies. The company is expected to give up all monopolies within a year. It says the quality and variety of ArmenTel services will be increased. Government legal advisor Vahe Yacoubian announced that it was the initiative of VimpelCom to bring up the matter of monopolies and said that the Russian firm is ready to get rid of monopolies within a short period of time. Thus, VimpelCom will give up monopoly on internet data transmission immediately after closing the deal. "Both sides are interested in completing this process as soon as possible as VimpelCom itself states that they think that an open market is better for their company’s business and profits," Yacoubian said.

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