TeliaSonera splashes out on Asian mobile operator

Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera has bought US-based MCT, a provider of mobile services in central Asia, for 2.0 billion kronor (218 million euros, 300 million dollars), the company said on Tuesday.

The operator, the biggest in the Nordic region, has acquired 100 percent of MCT shares and thus gained the majority of shareholdings in three Eurasian GSM operators and a small minority interest in a fourth operator.

“This transaction underlines TeliaSonera’s strategy to be the leading Eurasian mobile operator and strengthens our commitment and presence in the region,” said Tero Kivisaari, head of TeliaSonera’s business area Eurasia.

TeliaSonera has acquired majority interests in Uzbek-American joint venture Coscom in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan groups CJSC Indigo-Tajikistan and CJSC Somoncom.

It also acquired minority interests in Afghan cellular provider Roshan.

MCT Corp has developed 29 mobile ventures since its formation, and its services have been united under the Indigo brand introduced in 2001, according to MCT.


‘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.