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Russian agency wants tighter grip over Indian cell firm — media

June 19, 2014, 14:51 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, June 19. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s Federal State Property Management Agency intends to introduce its representative to the board of directors of Indian cellular operator Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL), in which it owns 17.14%, for fears that its stake might be diluted, business daily Kommersant reported Thursday.

Russian multi-industry holding AFK Sistema owns 56.68% in SSTL and 51.46% in MTS, whose representatives sit on SSTL’s board as consultants.

The agency wants to have a stronger hold on SSTL on the eve of announcing results on Saturday of an absentee vote of the Indian operator’s shareholders to convert its preferred stocks into common shares. If the conversion is approved, AFK Sistema’s stake in SSTL may rise to 89.51%, while the agency’s stake may fall to 4.15%. AFK Sistema will directly hold only 13.72% in SSTL and 75.79% via its unit, Insitel Services Private Ltd.

“A change of control means that the fulfillment of SSTL’s strategy won’t be controlled by AFK’s board of directors,” a source said.

A source familiar with the agency’s plans told the daily that Igor Kozlov, an advisor to the communications and mass media minister, may join the board of directors of SSTL, working under the MTS India brand.

The agency is unhappy with the number of MTS’ representatives at SSTL’s board and their proposals. “There are three MTS directors at the board. The last thing they put forward was to fire 30-40% of staff and replace the company’s general director. Such initiatives will lead to closing of the project, and MTS, as a consultant owning no shares in the operator, will bear no responsibility,” the source said.

MTS spokesman Dmitry Solodovnikov said his company put forward no such proposals.

MTS’ representatives are alternative directors with a voting right in case of an absence of the main ones.

MTS managers joined SSTL’s board in 2008, when a consulting agreement on the use of the operator’s brand was signed.

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