Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Kyivstar, the President, and justice

Last week President Yushchenko met with one of Russia's richest oligarchs, Mikhail Fridman, who's business conglomerate Alfa-Group includes 'Altimo', owners of Ukrainian 'Storm', who in turn own 43.5% of Ukraine’s largest mobile 'phone operator Kyivstar.

Kyivstar is one of Ukraine's most successful companies, worth around $6 Bn. Profits last year - about $320m.

Officially, they discussed Alfa-Group's possible sponsorship and participation in the "Mystets'kiy Arsenal" project, [one of Yush's pet cultural projects].

Altimo have been in dispute over many months with Norwegian telecommunication company Telenor, owners of the remaining 56.5% of Kyivstar.

About two weeks ago Ukraine’s Kharkiv Region Court of Appeals upheld Norwegian Telenor's request that they maintain a priority vote on the board of directors of Kyivstar.

Today the Supreme Court of Ukraine revoked a decision of the higher economic court of Ukraine of 27th June 2006, and restored a ruling of 22th December, 2005, enabling shareholders of "Kyivstar" to introduce changes in the regulations of company and to select the new composition of the council of directors. Telenor will lose its priority vote, so are naturally highly pi$$ed about this.

Telenor's press service have stated that the Supreme Court of Ukraine's ruling may well harm foreign investments in the Ukraine. "[The ruling] ..casts doubt one of the basic principles of the right of property - the right of a majority shareholder of company to hold the majority of seats on the board of the directors of that company. If the decision remains in the force, it will become alarm signal for many acting and potential investors in the Ukraine, and have a negative effect the business atmosphere of the country, " said executive Vice President, and chief of operations Telenor in Central and East Europe Jan Edvard Tigesen.

He also called upon all members of the business community in Ukraine to support and sign an open letter of protest about this matter, to provide better protection to investors in Ukraine, and not to allow such distortions of normal world standards and principles of corporate rights to take place.

The President didn't make any 'behind-the-scenes' telephone calls on his mobile after his meeting with Fridman did he?

ps On 31st May 2006 the Norwegan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Store, addressed a high-powered conference in Ukraine: "Ukraine and the Information Society – the Road Ahead," organized by Telenor and Ericsson, two global leaders in telecom and information technology.

Here's a bit of what Jonas Gahr Store said: "Cooperation between Norway and Ukraine is particularly close in the telecom sector. And this is why I have the pleasure to attend this event.

Telenor is the largest Norwegian investor in Ukraine and the largest Western European investor in the Ukrainian telecom sector, with a track record dating back to 1997. This is the most successful example of Norwegian-Ukrainian business cooperation ever. The Norwegian government supports the strengthening of such ties.

Ukraine’s favourable economic path is due to its impressive technological development. Here as elsewhere, the introduction of new technology is leading to more efficient use of available resources and greater output, resulting in sustainable economic growth.
The revolution in information and communication technology around the world is at the core of this technological transformation.

In Ukraine the ICT revolution is taking place at a particularly impressive pace. In less than ten years, mobile telephone penetration has gone from zero to more than 70 per cent.

Telenor has taken part in and helped shaping this revolution, as co-owner of Kyivstar. Telenor, the largest network operator in Norway, has also been instrumental in transforming my country’s information infrastructure into a world-class system. This goes beyond technology."

The head of Ukraine's Presidential Commission for Foreign Investments, Mr. Gaydutskyi, was a guest of honor at this conference. Gaydutskyi was reportedly also present at last week's meeting between Yushchenko and Mikhail Fridman..

More on what this is really all about here and here..

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