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UPDATE 1-Telia sells Tajik operations to Aga Khan's development fund
April 26, 2017 / 8:47 AM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-Telia sells Tajik operations to Aga Khan's development fund

* Telia sells Tajik stake

* Says sees lower Uzbek settlement, at $1 bln

* Q1 earnings in line with forecasts (Adds CEO comment, detail, shares)

STOCKHOLM, April 26 (Reuters) - Nordic telecom operator Telia Company has agreed to sell its Tajik operations to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, taking a step closer to withdrawing from its troubled Central Asian business.

Telia said it had sold its 60 percent stake in Tajik operator Tcell to the development fund founded by the Aga Khan, a businessman and spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, also known for owning the largest horse-racing operation in France.

An earlier deal to sell that stake to the fund fell through as the authorities in Tajikistan did not give their approval in time.

Telia said in 2015 it would gradually abandon its Central Asian markets, hit by years of investigations into alleged corruption linked to local partners and problems accessing cash in distant countries.

The firm still expects to leave the five remaining countries - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Moldova and Uzbekistan - this year, CEO Johan Dennelind told Reuters.

Telia’s Tajik operations are reported as discontinued operations and the book value of Telia’s interests has been adjusted to zero. The price agreed in the original deal with the Aga Khan Fund in September last year was around $13 million in equity value.

Telia also scaled back its cost estimate for a looming settlement payment related to its entry into Uzbekistan in 2007 to $1.0 billion, down from a previous estimate of $1.45 billion.

The company’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in the first quarter were 6.1 billion Swedish crowns ($702 million) excluding non-recurring items, down from 6.2 billion a year ago, and in line with a mean forecast in a Reuters poll.

Telia stuck to its 2017 forecast of a free cash flow above 7 billion crowns and an operating profit (EBITDA) and dividends around the same level as in 2016.

Telia shares were up by 1.1 percent by 0856 GMT.

$1 = 8.7618 Swedish crowns Reporting by Helena Soderpalm and Olof Swahnberg, editing by Niklas Pollard and Louise Heavens

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