Major Russian mobile operator MTS is considering selling its stake in the Uzbek operator Universal Mobile Systems (UMS), said the Agency “Interfax” citing a source close to MTS, and the source of the state Committee of the Republic. According to the latter, to sell your business, MTS may “for a symbolic price” and the transaction can be one of the conditions for a settlement of the investigation of the justice Department “Uzbek case” of corruption.
MTS owns the repossessed a 50.01% in UMS, and the rest — from the state Centre of radio communication, broadcasting and television of Uzbekistan. In Uzbekistan, the company has 1.3 million subscribers. MTS ‘ revenues from business in Uzbekistan in the first quarter of 2016 amounted to 2.2 billion rubles, net loss — RUB 330 million Is about 2% of total revenue of MTS group.
MTS representative told RBC that the operator “using UMS continues to operate in Uzbekistan in the normal mode. A source in the company in conversation with “Interfax” the selling of business in Uzbekistan “negative scenario”, noting that there are “basic scenario” in which the company will remain in the local market. When the final decision is unknown, he added.
Child operators MTS and VimpelCom in Uzbekistan was involved in the investigation of corruption schemes in the telecommunications market of the Republic, which led the U.S. justice Department and the investigating authorities of Switzerland and the Netherlands. The scandal began in 2012 after a series of investigations by the European media, which learned about the connection with Uzbek officials, the Swedish-Finnish operator TeliaSonera.
During the investigation, U.S. investigators suspected that MTS and VimpelCom in exchange for access to the local market paid bribes through shell companies, an unnamed Uzbek officials, presumably a relative of the President of the country Islam Karimov. According to the materials of the investigation, and according to European journalists, it could go on the daughter of the President of Uzbekistan Gulnara Karimova.
In November 2015, VimpelCom has earmarked $900 million for “potential liabilities” of the company related to the investigation, and in February 2016, the company agreed with the US authorities and the Netherlands on the settlement of the case. And VimpelCom Uzbek subsidiary Unitel acknowledged that he had conspired to pay a bribe “to a government official in Uzbekistan.This would help them to enter the local market. VimpelCom agreed to pay a penalty of $795 million for settlement of the case.
MTS management has repeatedly stated that the company does not reserve funds, as did VimpelCom. The course of the investigation MTS representatives do not comment.