Vimpelcom Acquires Two Uzbek Mobile Carriers (VIP, MBT)

Includes: MBT, VEON

In the race to acquire mobile assets in the Former Soviet Union, Reuters reports that Vimpelcom (VIP) announced its acquisition of two Uzbek mobile carriers, Buztel and Unitel. Vimpelcom shelled out $60 million for Buztel plus $2.4 million of debt and $200 million plus $13.4 million of debt for Unitel.

Russia's second largest mobile company, Vimpelcom's entry into the Uzbek market exposes the company to 25 million additional people with a mobile penetration rate of only 4.5% at the end of 2005 according to Reuters. In a company press release Vimpelcom CEO Alexander Izosimov said:

We are very pleased to announce these acquisitions in Uzbekistan, a large market that we believe has the potential for substantial growth. VimpelCom's entry into Uzbekistan will bring our licensed population coverage to a total of over 230 million people. This is the fourth market outside of Russia that VimpelCom has entered as the Company continues to execute its CIS growth strategy.

This is Vimpelcom's second major acquisition in three weeks. On December 29th, Vimpelcom announced that it would acquire 60% of Tacom, a cellular operator in Tajikistan, for $12 million and reached an agreement with the remaining shareholders of Tacom to acquire the outstanding 40% interest in the company.

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