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TeliaSonera to sue after Turkcell refusal

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16:08 CEST+02:00
Swedish telecommunications operator TeliaSonera said on Monday it would sue Turkey's Cukurova group over its refusal to honour an agreement to sell a key stake in Turkcell, the biggest Turkish mobile phone operator.

The threat came after Cukurova said it had declined to sign a final deal with TeliaSonera by Monday's deadline, and was looking instead at options that would not change control of the company.

"In light of the demands both from the public and from Turkcell's general meeting for a highly prestigious company such as Turkcell to stay under the control of a Turkish group, Cukurova Holdings will start work on possibilities that will not lead to a change of control," the group said.

But TeliaSonera said it would not let Cukurova off the hook.

"They are obliged to complete the deal. They just say they don't want to, but we have not had an explanation of why," company chief executive Anders Igel told AFP's financial newswire, AFX News.

He added that Cukurova failed to turn up at an agreed meeting to discuss the issue over the weekend.

"TeliaSonera will pursue legal actions to protect its rights," the Swedish company said.

Financial analysts confessed to being at a loss to to explain the Turkish about-turn, but some suspected it could have been due to a possible rival offer by Russia's Alfa Group, which has been competing with TeliaSonera for control of Turkcell.

Alfa has informally said it had made a higher bid for the 27 percent Turkcell stake, but has declined to divulge the value of the offer, or to notify markets or authorities officially.

"The whole thing's a mystery. Until and if Alfa makes a formal bid all we can do is speculate," said a Stockholm analyst.

It was also not clear whether the simple decision not to sign the final agreement gave TeliaSonera grounds for legal action.

"It may be that they had a gentleman's agreement, and Cukurova are not behaving like gentlemen," said an analyst. "But whatever, a deal's not done until there are two signatures on it".

Cukurova Holdings, one of the country's most diverse conglomerates, is still recovering after reaching the brink of bankruptcy during an economic crisis in 2001.

It is currently the biggest shareholder of Turkcell with 42 percent.

TeliaSonera had said in March that it would pay 3.1 billion dollars (about 2.5 billion euros) for an additional 27 percent of Turkcell, taking its total holding to 64.3 percent.

The company had said that the deal would be subject to regulatory approvals and especially an exemption from the mandatory tender offer requirement from the Turkish Capital Markets Board.

Turkcell has some 23 million subscribers and some 5,000 employees. It is also the first Turkish company to be listed on Wall Street.

AFP

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