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Russia's Comstar is interested in acquiring stake in UkrTelecom

OAO Comstar United Telesystems, a telecommunications operator owned by Russian billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov, said it is interested in the planned share sale of Ukraine's national phone company.

„UkrTelecom interests us very much,” Comstar CEO Eric Franke told reporters in Moscow today. „We are interested in the privatization of big fixed-line operators.” Comstar last year paid $1.3 billion for a 25% stake plus one share in OAO Svyazinvest. Svyazinvest, Russia's fixed-line monopoly, counts 38 million fixed-line subscribers through its seven subsidiaries spread across 11 time zones. Ukraine's state property fund said January 31 it will offer a 10% stake in VAT UkrTelecom on February 21 on the domestic stock market. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko wants to sell the state's entire holdings in UkrTelecom to attract foreign investors. He pledged in 2005 to sell some of the nation's biggest companies, including UkrTelecom, in 2006 to cover the budget deficit. Franke said that Comstar hadn't yet decided whether it will buy UkrTelecom shares, adding that he was skeptical about the sale. „It is a political process,” he said. UkrTelecom provides local, long-distance and international telephone services across Ukraine. The government, which owns 92.8% of the company, has stalled plans to sell a larger stake for almost a decade. (Bloomberg)