Telia Sonera battles for Turkcell

Swedish-Finnish telecommunications operator TeliaSonera said on Monday it was stepping up its fight for Turkey's biggest operator Turkcell by suing Russia's Alfa Group for alleged wrongful interference with its efforts.

TeliaSonera is already locked in a legal battle with Turkcell’s majority owner, Cukurova, which it accuses of failing to honour an agreement to sell a key Turkcell stake to the Nordic company, dealing with Alfa instead.

“TeliaSonera initiates legal actions against Russian Alfa Group for its tortious interference in the transaction between TeliaSonera and the Turkish Cukurova Group,” it said.

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

But two months later, Cukurova suddenly declined to sign the final deal and said it was looking instead at options that would not change control of Turkcell.

As a result, Alfa on Monday announced it had completed the purchase of 13.22 percent in Turkcell from Cukurova via the purchase of convertible bonds for 1.593 billion dollars.

TeliaSonera has argued it should have been offered the Turkcell stake first because it had the right of first refusal.

“The transactions between Cukurova and Alfa have now materialized to such a degree that TeliaSonera has decided to take legal actions also against Alfa,” TeliaSonera said.

Alfa had confirmed its “ambitions and actions to make an alternative transaction come through despite the existing agreement” between TeliaSonera and Cukurova, the Nordic company charged.

Separately, TeliaSonera said it was also taking legal action after some 135 million dollars had allegedly been taken out of Turkcell’s bank accounts without authorization.

TeliaSonera said it had reason to believe that the money had been taken out by Cukurova to settle debts with the Turkish government.

Turkcell, which has around 25 million subscribers, is the first Turkish company to be listed on Wall Street.