Russia's MTS reiterates want of control over MTS Belarus

MINSK, Mar 15 (Prime-Tass) -- Russia?s largest mobile operator Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) is ready to resume talks on buying a controlling stake in its affiliate MTS Belarus, Pavel Pavlovsky, MTS' foreign subsidiaries development department director, told a news conference Wednesday.

MTS is ready to start negotiations on the purchase if the Belarusian government decides to sell its stake, Pavlovsky said.

MTS holds a 49% stake in MTS Belarus, which has 2.25 million subscribers, while the Belarusian government holds the other 51%.

"At the moment MTS Belarus is worth U.S. $700 million," Pavlovsky said, adding that its value may increase to $1 billion. "A price of $350 million for half of the company seems reasonable. We are ready to consider (such an offer)," Pavlovsky said.

Pavlovsky also said that MTS plans to look for acquisitions in other countries, especially in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia, adding that MTS' budget for acquisitions totals $3 billion as of now.

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko said in early March that Belarus would not give up control of its cellular assets in the country, including MTS? subsidiary.

Lukashenko said the Belarusian government had been offered $350 million for a controlling stake in MTS Belarus but had refused to sell.