Quitting Uzbekistan No Easy Task for TeliaSonera
Tuesday 20 October 2015
STOCKHOLM (Wall Street Journal) — Scandinavian telecom operator TeliaSonera AB warned Tuesday it faces a difficult task in pulling out of Uzbekistan, where its operations have come under the scrutiny of U.S. authorities, as well as other countries in central Asia.
TeliaSonera, which is 37% owned by the Swedish state, has earmarked its business in Uzbekistan for sale to try turn the page on accusations levelled by U.S. judicial authorities that it paid bribes to secure business in the former Soviet country. The move is part of the telecom operator’s broader retreat from central Asia to focus on the Nordic and Baltic regions.
“These aren’t easy assets”, Chief Executive Johan Dennelind said in an interview. One problem is uncertainty about who was the ultimate beneficiary of the deals in which TeliaSonera acquired its Uzbekistan telecom assets, Mr. Dennelind said. “Selling [out of] Uzbekistan isn’t an easy task.”
U.S. prosecutors believe TeliaSonera as well as Amsterdam-based Vimpelcom Ltd. and Mobile TeleSystems PJSC of Russia funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses controlled by Gulnara Karimova, the elder daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, in an effort to secure wireless frequencies and other deals in that country, according to court documents and people with direct knowledge of the probe.