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Telia wants out of Turkcell

Nordic operator Telia Company has confirmed media speculation that it's in discussions with Turkey Wealth Fund (TFW) to sell its indirect stake in Turkcell, Turkey's largest mobile operator, for around $530 million.

Telia holds a 24% stake in Turkcell, via Turkcell Holding, in which it has a 47.1% stake. Çukurova Telecom Holding, a Turkish industrial conglomerate, holds the remaining 52.9%.

If Telia strikes a deal with TFW, a sovereign wealth fund, the Nordic operator will give up its stake in Turkcell Holding. (Ed note: Hope everyone's following this.)

Telia's relationship with Çukurova is not a cordial one. In fact, by the looks of it, they seem to have been getting on each other's nerves since at least 2005.

At that time, Telia apparently signed an agreement with Çukurova to purchase its shares in Turkcell Holding. The Telia line, though, was that Çukurova reneged on that promise.

In 2011, an International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) tribunal awarded Telia $932 million in damages, plus interest and costs, for Çukurova's failure to deliver the Turkcell Holding shares.

As far as Light Reading can determine – a Telia spokesperson had yet to confirm this at the time of going to press – Telia is still chasing that money. Çukurova, meanwhile, is doggedly seeking to overturn the ICC award.


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How all this sits with Telia's potential exit from Turkcell Holding is difficult to work out – at least from what's in the public domain.

Another possible complication is that LetterOne, an international investment business formerly known as Alfa Telecom – and founded by Russian investor Mikhail Fridman – holds a 49% stake in Çukurova Telecom Holding, which gives it a 13.2% indirect stake in Turkcell. (Ed note: As I said, hope everyone's following this.) LetterOne stands to gain if the ICC award is upheld.

Fridman, Çukurova and Telia have been so much at loggerheads with each other that even shareholder meetings, reportedly, have been scrapped.

Turkish acrimony aside, Telia has been drawing back from the more far-flung parts of its operations for some time. After a corruption scandal at its Uzbekistan subsidiary, Telia upped sticks there in 2017.

Other exits in recent years, based on a 2015 plan to focus more on its core assets in the Nordic and Baltic regions, include Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldovia, Nepal and Tajikistan.

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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