According TeleGeography, The Turkish mobile operator Turkcell has reportedly agreed to buy an 80% stake in Belarusian mobile operator Belarusian Telecommunications Network (BeST), according to an unconfirmed report from Prime-TASS citing a source close to the Republican government. The paper says the transaction has been approved at the highest political level and will see Turkcell paying for the shares - thought to be worth around USD500 million - in three tranches, the last tranche maturity date coinciding with the first profit received by BeST. Prime-TASS says the decision to sell to the Turkish firm is a blow to Russian mobile group Vimpelcom which had been hoping to enter the Belarusian mobile market. The operator, which trades under the Beeline banner, had long been considered in the front seat to acquire BeST having tracked the cellco since its inception in 2004.
If confirmed, the state's decision to sell BeST marks a dramatic U-turn. At the end of last year the country's Minister for Information Technologies and Communications Nikolai Pantelei said there were no plans to sell off any of its 75% stake in BeST - held through state-owned Automation Means Institute AGAT. At the time the minister said that while the company needed additional investments in order to grow, the government did not envisage any moves to bring in additional investors at this time. BeST has been providing cellular communication services since 21 December 2005. At the end of 2007 the cellco had approximately 180,000 subscribers, a market share of around 2.5%. Its other shareholder is national PTO Beltelecom, which owns 25% of the company.
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