TeliaSonera reopens Turkcell affair

Swedish-Finnish telecommunications operator TeliaSonera has initiated a new arbitration proceeding against Turkey's Cukurova group for breaching a shareholders' agreement on Turkcell.

TeliaSonera announced in March that it would pay 3.1 billion dollars for 27 percent of Turkcell, taking its total holding to 64.3 percent.

But Cukurova in May declined to sign a final deal with TeliaSonera and said it was looking instead at options that would not change control of the company.

TeliaSonera launched an arbitration proceeding against Cukurova in June, alleging that Cukurova breached the agreement.

Now, TeliaSonera claims that indirect stakes in Turkcell which Cukurova recently transferred to Russia’s Alfa Group should have been offered to TeliaSonera, as it had the right of first refusal.

“The announced transaction between Cukurova and Alfa concerning indirect shareholding interests in Turkcell breaches the shareholders’ agreement between TeliaSonera and Cukurova,” TeliaSonera said in a statement.

As a result it is launching another arbitration proceeding at the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce.

“The latest developments clearly show that the intention has been to immediately sell indirect shareholding interests in Turkcell without respecting TeliaSonera’s rights,” TeliaSonera chief executive Anders Igel said.

“It is unfortunate that we have to start another legal process around this matter, but we believe it is important to fight for our rigths and for a proper conduct of international business,” he said.

Cukurova Holdings, one of Turkey’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.

The mobile phone operator has some 23 million subscribers and some 5,000 employees.

It is also the first Turkish company to be listed on Wall Street.

TeliaSonera’s coffers are flush and the company has long been looking for international acquisitions.



‘Rotten’ business claims at Nordic TeliaSonera

Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera has been accused of “rotten” business dealings in Azerbaijan, following a separate bribery scandal in Uzbekistan.

'Rotten’ business claims at Nordic TeliaSonera
A TeliaSonera conference in Stockholm last year. Photo: TT

Folksam, which is one of the largest insurance companies in Sweden, has accused the firm of “systematic cheating”, after it emerged that TeliaSonera’s subsidiary in Azerbaijan had ties with the family of Ilham Aliyev, the Arab nation’s leader.

It has been claimed that the dictator’s daughters were shareholders of TeliaSonera's subsidiary Azertel, via a connected company based in Panama.

“It is distressing that in a large Swedish company…people thought that cheating would pay off in the long run,” Carina Lundberg Markow, one of Folksam’s managers told the TT news agency on Wednesday.

She criticized TeliaSonera for failing to act “in an honest and open way” when entering new markets.

“Instead, they choose to pay for success,” she added.

TeliaSonera is one of the biggest telecom operators in the Nordic and Baltic countries and also operates in several emerging markets in Eurasia including Russia and Turkey, as well as Spain. The Swedish state owns 37.3 percent of the company.

Swedish prosecutor Gunnar Stetler is already investigating claims of unethical business practices in Uzbekistan and told TT he had also been given new information concerning potential bribery in Azerbaijan.

The company has voluntarily cooperated with the investigation, handing over what Stetler describes as “extensive information” about “the terms and conditions in Eurasian countries”.

Stetler said he was unable to discuss how he had responded to the information. But calls are growing for TeliaSonera to release a public report about its business dealings.

“Now it is extremely important to create transparency,” said Lundberg Markow.

“This shows the importance of having a set of values when doing business in complex markets or countries,” she added.

TeliaSonera and Norwegian rival Telenor recently merged their operations in Denmark, while the telecoms giant last year purchased rival Tele2's Norwegian division for 5.1 kronor.