GM-UPDATE 1-VTB bank to sell 50 pct of Tele2 Russia - executive
MOSCOW, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Russian bank VTB has agreed to sell a 50 percent stake in mobile phone operator Tele2 Russia to a group of Russian investors, a senior executive of VTB said on Friday.
A deal could be worth around $2 billion, according to valuation figures VTB gave for Tele2 Russia in its last financial report. VTB declined to comment on the price.
In April VTB bought Tele2 Russia, the country's fourth largest mobile phone operator, for $3.6 billion from Sweden's Tele2. VTB had said it was not looking to hold the asset for the long term.
The buyers include connections of Bank Rossiya and Alexei Mordashov's steelmaker Severstal, Yuri Soloviev, first deputy president of VTB's management board, told Reuters.
However, a source familiar with the situation later said that Mordashov's connections rather than those of Severstal were participating in the deal.
Severstal declined to comment.
The deal could be a first step toward a merger of Tele2 Russia with the mobile arm of state-controlled group Rostelecom . Media reports suggested the two would form a joint venture to create a stronger competitor to MTS, Megafon and Vimpelcom.
A week ago Bank Rossiya, which is part-owned and chaired by Yuri Kovalchuk, an old acquaintance of President Vladimir Putin, said that it was considering participating in a deal to acquire part of Tele2 Russia, with VTB saying that a deal was possible in the next two weeks.
Bank Rossiya on Friday confirmed it plans to take part, saying the federal anti-monopoly service had cleared it, but declined to give any details.
In its first-half earnings report VTB said Tele2 Russia was worth 126.4 billion roubles ($3.9 billion), suggesting a 50 percent stake would be valued at around $2 billion before stripping out debt.