July 16, 2012 / 3:58 PM / 5 years ago

Russia's Usmanov combines telecoms assets

MOSCOW, July 16 (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov is increasing his influence in the country’s telecoms sector by combining his stake in mobile operator MegaFon into a holding company he controls which will also own state-backed next-generation operator Scartel.

Usmanov recently secured majority control in MegaFon, Russia’s No. 2 mobile operator, and the company aims to go public through a London IPO.

Megafon also last week won one of four next-generation mobile licences, allowing it to provide wireless internet using the fast LTE service which is expected to become the industry standard worldwide.

Known for being an astute tech investor, Usmanov is seen as being in pole position to capitalise on the next generation of telecoms technology, through a joint venture between Megafon and Scartel, which operates a countrywide LTE network under the Yota brand.

MegaFon launched LTE, the next generation, in Moscow in May, using Scartel’s network.

The new holding company will own 100 percent of the shares of Scartel and 50 percent of MegaFon, according to an emailed press release issued by shareholders of Megafon and Yota.

The company will be 82 percent owned by Usmanov’s AF Telecom and 18 percent owned by Telconet Capital and state-backed Russian Technologies.

Russian Technologies and Telconet - co-owned by businessman Sergei Adonyev - previously owned Scartel, which was valued by its owners at $1 billion, according to a recent Interfax report.

Creation of the holding company will make it possible to speed up the introduction of new technology in Russia, reduce capital costs for building the next generation, or LTE network, and reduce operating expenses, the press release said.

“Co-operation of the...teams, as well as openness towards working with other players on the market, will make it possible to take a step forward in the development of high-tech communications in Russia,” Telecominvest director Ivan Streshinsky said in the press release.

Usmanov owns his stake in Megafon through AF Telecom and another holding company, Telecominvest.

The other winners of the recent LTE license were Rostelecom , MTS and Vimpelcom.

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