TeliaSonera Buys Asian Operators For $488 Million

TeliaSonera
said it would buy a 51 percent stake in TeliaSonera Asia Holding BV from Kazakhstan’s Visor Group, which has an 80
percent stake in Nepalese operator Spice Nepal
and 100 percent of Cambodia’s
Applifone.

    TeliaSonera
said it expected to close the deal on Oct. 1.

    Chief
Executive Lars Nyberg said the purchases were an indication of where the
company’s growth would increasingly come from in the future.
   
He said Eurasia offered rapid growth possibilities as economies
are growing fast and mobile penetration levels low.

    “You should
see this as a sign of what our priority is when we look beyond the CIS
markets,” Nyberg told a conference call.

    One analyst
who declined to be identified said Nepal was the more interesting
acquisition of the two.

   
“There is a
big population … low mobile penetration and quite limited competition,” he
said.

   
In Cambodia,
competition is fiercer, he added.

    Lena
Osterberg, analyst at SEB said the price TeliaSonera was paying for the assets
was too high, but Nyberg said the price was fair, given the good growth
opportunities.

   
TeliaSonera
shares were down 3 percent at 0950 GMT, against a 2 percent fall in the wider Stockholm market.

   
TeliaSonera
has expanded rapidly in countries in the former Soviet Union in recent years as
it diversifies away from its mature home markets in Scandinavia.

    Nyberg said
Eurasia was an increasingly important profit
driver. He said the region had EBITDA margins over 50 percent against around 32
percent for the group as a whole.

   
“That’s why
we should invest in this region,” Nyberg said.

   
Applifone
is the fourth-largest mobile operator in Cambodia, with some 97,500
subscribers and an estimated market share of 3 percent. Mobile penetration in
the country is around 21 percent.

 


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