Belarus looking to sell MTS stake for $1bn

By Ira Iosebashvili, Dow Jones Newswires

State holds 51% stake in mobile operator; analyst questions valuation.

The Belarussian government is looking to sell its stake in phone operator OAO Mobile TeleSystems' subsidiary in the country for $1 billion, President Alexander Lukashenko is quoted as saying by Belarus's state-run news agency Friday.

"We're not against it. Put $1 billion on the table. If you want to buy it, go ahead. If not, we'll put it up for auction," Lukashenko is quoted as saying.

The Belarussian government owns 51% of MTS Belarus. Minsk has previously offered to sell its stake back to MTS, but the two sides couldn't agree on a price.

"Lukashenko's figure is at least 40% above what the company would sell for, even with a premium," said Viktor Klimovich, an analyst at VTB Capital.

Belarus has been looking for ways to bolster its dwindling foreign reserves and avoid a devaluation of its currency.


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