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UK Subsidiary of Russian State Bank VTB to Face Legal Action in London’s High Court Over Vivacom Sale

LONDON, March 11, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The owner of the largest Bulgarian telecommunications company Vivacom has issued High Court proceedings in London against VTB Capital, the UK arm of the state owned Russian bank, for the alleged illegal seizure and sale of the company to a connected party.

The legal action in London was filed last week by lawyers representing Empreno and LICT and their owner Dmitry Kosarev, who is the principle shareholder in Vivacom.

A spokesperson for Mr Kosarev, said: “Filing our claim in the High Court is a major milestone in our ongoing fight to secure proper compensation from VTB Capital for what we regard as a heinous attempt to illegally sell Vivacom to a connected party for a grossly undervalued sum. We expect our damages to be at least €250m.”

In a separate action, lawyers representing Mr Kosarev have also submitted a criminal complaint to the Serious Fraud Office.

According to the SFO complaint, VTB Capital dishonestly seized LICT’s shareholding in InterV Investment Sarl (InterV), a parent company of Vivacom, by conspiring with a third party to block the owners’ access to the company. Individuals named in the SFO complaint include Mr Nick Hutt (CEO of VTB Capital plc), Mr Alexei Yakovitsky (Global CEO of VTB Capital and CEO of VTB Capital Holding (Russia)) and Mr Yuri Soloviev (Deputy Chairman of the Management Board of JSC VTB Bank and Chairman of the Board of Directors of VTB Capital Holding (Russia)).

After effectively taking control of the company, VTB has quickly started the process of selling it to an affiliated party at a grossly undervalued price, thereby resulting in substantial financial detriment to the rightful owners.

Vivacom is the largest telecommunications company in Bulgaria and a former state-owned monopoly. It employs over 3,500 people and offers various telecommunication services, including fixed-line, mobile, internet, radio and TV broadcasting, and data transmission services. The company is headquartered in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The court filing alleges that VTB Capital deliberately prevented InterV from refinancing a 150m euro loan with the investment bank. It then allegedly sold InterV’s shares in Vivacom, which had been used as security on the loan, at a knock down price to a connected party – and in doing so breached a stand-still agreement.

VTB Capital has sold the shares of the company to an affiliated individual, Spas Rusev, a prominent Bulgarian businessman. Mr Kosarev believes that the sale wasconducted via a sham auction process without proper notification and in an effort to conceal the sale while blocking other bidders and ensuring that Spas Rusev is able to get the company far below market value.

According to the High Court filing:

- No proper or sufficient attempts were made to publicise the purported auction so as to attract a reasonable number of interested bidders

- VTB Capital specifically and persistently refused to provide Empreno and LICT with information to enable it to refinance their loans with VTB Capital and to participate in a bid for the InterV shares.

- No proper or sufficient period of notice was allowed before the purported auction to enable interested bidders to prepare and carry out reasonable due diligence.

- The winning bidder, Spas Rusev, is a connected party and a long-standing associate of VTB Capital.

- The ultimate sale price of €330 million agreed for the InterV shares grossly undervalued the shares and represented a substantial reduction of €143 million to the competing bid by CVC Capital Partners Limited.

- VTBC has obstructed the steps taken by Empreno to investigate its misconduct by persistently refusing to disclose relevant information and documents.

Authorities in Russia are also looking into starting a criminal investigation against unidentified subjects in connection with the sale of Vivacom. However as VTB Capital plc is a UK regulated bank, Empreno and LICT intend to use all remedies available to them.

About Empreno Ventures

Owned by Dmitry Kosarev, EMPRENO has been set up as a special-purpose investment vehicle to control the owner's stake in Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, Vivacom. The company is responsible for holding the stake and working with Vivacom on representing its owner's interests in the company. www.emprenoventures.com

Contact: Andrew Watson andreww@publicspace.me 020 3289 9344

Source:Empreno Ventures