Russian mobile operator looks for foreign markets

Media sources are suggesting that Russian mobile operator VimpelCom is planning to raise a U.S. 4.5 billion dollar loan by the end of the year to finance planned acquisitions – possibly abroad. That's according to Interfax news agency.

VimpelCom has applied to major banks around the world for the money.

Some market watchers say the company would only be able to attract a loan of that size for a particular project. And they say fixed line operator Golden Telecom could be an acquisition target.

Nadezhda Golubeva, Telecom Analyst at Aton Investment Company in Moscow, says “the combined company will be the first and only company in Russia able to offer a so-called mobile convergent services – mobile and landline services from single provider”.

“Such convergent services are increasingly developing as the main industry driver in the long term,” she said.

However other analysts believe VimpelCom will be looking outside the domestic market. They point to its September agreement with the Vietnamese government to set up GSM operations there and key shareholder – Altimo's – commitment to spending up to $US 2 billion in Indonesia.

According to Andrey Bogdanov, Telecoms Analyst at Troika Dialog Investment Company in Moscow, “they tend to be looking for something in Asia. They never hid they have a big interest in this market.”

“Recently they signed an agreement to set up a JV [joint venture] in Vietnam. I think the company is looking to create a cluster of operators in the South-East Asia. If they have a particular plan in mind, licences, etc, they could be looking for money to start expansion,” Mr Bogdanov said.

The size of the reported loan is also seen as a sign of a possible improvement of relations between warring VimpelCom shareholders Altimo and Telenor. Analysts say that any loan of the size being reported would require approval by the Board of Directors, which means the key shareholders are in agreement on this at least.