By Astghik Bedevian
The Armenian government is likely to sell its 10 percent stake in the Armenian Telephone Company (ArmenTel) to its future buyer if the latter vows to end its monopoly on Armenia’s telecom market.
Armenia’s Minister of Transport and Communication Andranik Manukian, who was entrusted last week to manage the state-held share in the company, announced Wednesday that the government will not object to Vimpel-Communications buying the remaining 10 percent share if the Russian mobile operator rejects all types of monopolies currently enjoyed by ArmenTel.
“We kept our shares to be able to influence somehow the company’s decisions during the meetings of its shareholders,” Manukian said, adding that if the monopoly provisions are reconsidered ‘prices will result from competition and there will be no question of tariff policy regulation.’
“It seems to me that the government’s participation with its 10 percent stake will not give anything. For us it is important that the monopoly provisions be removed,” the minister said, giving assurances that the government will not give up its stake otherwise.
Vimpel-Communications agreed last week to buy a 90 percent stake in ArmenTel Greece's Hellenic Telecommunications Organization SA for 341.9 million euros ($436.3 million) plus about 40 million euros (US$51 million) in debt.
ArmenTel has about 600,000 fixed-line and 400,000 mobile subscribers.
Vimpel-Communications operates phone services in Russia and Kazakhstan and recently acquired cellular operators in Ukraine, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Georgia. The Group’s cellular license portfolio covers a territory with a population of about 237 million.