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Telenor's VimpelCom shares to be sold off

RUSSIAN bailiffs yesterday authorized the sale of most of Norwegian telecom company Telenor's shares in VimpelCom, Russia's No. 2 mobile operator, in an effort to recover US$1.7 billion owed in damages.

The move means that Telenor, which owns 29.9 percent of VimpelCom, might lose its assets in the mobile operator before the completion of its appeal against an earlier court ruling.

The bailiffs, which seized a 26.6 percent stake in March, said yesterday that they would hand the shares to Russia's Federal State Property Agency to be put up for sale, and had notified both sides of its decision.

A spokeswoman for the agency said they had not yet received an official order, adding that its own experts would have to evaluate the deal before any potential sale.

Telenor said it had not been told of the move by the bailiffs and urged the Russian government not to sell its stake in VimpelCom before the outcome of its appeal is known.

"Telenor is confident that the incorrect decision will eventually be overturned and that it therefore would be very surprising if the shares were sold prior to a final court decision," the company said in a statement.

Earlier this year, a Siberian court ruled in favor of a tiny, obscure VimpelCom shareholder called Farimex Products Inc, which claimed that Telenor's efforts to block a takeover deal in Ukraine had resulted in huge losses for VimpelCom.

Telenor's appeal against the ruling, due to be heard by a court in the Siberian town of Tyumen earlier this month, has been put back until September 30.



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