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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Export of Corporate War Technology

An extremely interesting phrase for the innocent bystander, but extremely painful if you are on the receiving end. Unfortunately for Teliasonera, they are feeling the pain of another blast from its’ Russian partner, Alfa Group. This time it is in Turkey and Alfa have led a boardroom coup leading to the exit of the Teliasonera favoured CEO with one much more friendly to the Russians. Teliasonera seems to have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Turkey with the Russians now effectively controlling the boardroom.

This is extremely worrying for the Swedes and the fights going on in Russia and Turkey will almost certainly spread to the rest of the Eurasian assets in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova.

I’m not sure what the end game is going to be for Mikhail Fridman with his battles with Teliasonera, Telenor, the Russian Communications Minister and probably many others. However, I’m sure that the problem in Turkey gives an opportunity for Vodafone with its’ newest acquisition, Telsim, to make inroads in its’ current poor market share.

Even before the Russians entered the fray, the Turkish Cellular Market has an interesting history: Telsim itself was founded by the Uzan brothers, who Nokia and Motorola chased across the courtrooms of the globe filling many a lawyers pockets in the process. In the end, the Uzan empire crumbled and was grabbed by the state. Nokia and Motorola agreed to an auction of the assets and deep-pocketed Vodafone stepped in.

During the time Telsim was paralysed, Turkcell grabbed huge market share and in the process the Karamehmet family behind the financing became Turkish business heroes. Unfortunately, the Karamehmet empire also collapsed and the family teetered with bankruptcy avoiding the disaster that befell the Uzan’s. Teliasonera thought they had a brilliant (and cheap) deal to gain full control of Turkcell since they owned pre-emptive rights until Fridman dreamt up an even more brilliant scheme and brought Vladimir Putin along to seal the deal.

During all this time, the founder of Turkcell, Murat Vargi, has been hanging around with his 7% and probably now sit in the position of deal maker and breaker.

Who will get to eat the Turkish Delight in the end? Time will only tell, but it has the making of another great chapter in the history of European Cellular Markets.