VimpelCom CEO: Algeria Has "Firm" Intention To Nationalize Djezzy

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

VimpelCom Ltd.'s (VIP) Chief Executive Alexander Izosimov said Thursday the authorities in Algiers are moving in a "firm direction" toward nationalizing the Algerian unit of Orascom Telecom HoldingOrascom Telecom Holding SAE.

Izosimov, visiting Algiers with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, said he and his colleagues have opened a dialogue with Algerian officials, adding that the intentions to take over Djezzy, the major Orascom unit there, "might change."

"We met all the key decision makers and expressed our view that we would like to stay and run the company," Izosimov told Dow Jones Newswires in a telephone interview from Algiers. "If the government insists, we will sell, but only if the price is fair," he added.

Izosimov declined to comment on whether VimpelCom, which agreed this week to acquire a majority of Orascom, would accept less than the previously mentioned $8 billion price tag for selling Djezzy to Algeria.

Izosimov said he doesn't expect drawn-out negotiations in Algiers, but rather a "quite fast" decision at the ministerial level. "It struck me that the dialogue isn't going to be that long," he said, declining to specify a timeframe.

Even if Orascom loses Djezzy to the authorities, the VimpelCom merger may still go through.

"It's clearly an important part that might affect [the deal], but it's not critical," he said. "The more certainty we bring, the sooner the better," he added.

During the trip, Medvedev told Algerian authorities "that there are concerns that need to be resolved" regarding the Orascom unit, Izosimov said.