Algeria in talks with Vimpelcom over Djezzy

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Algeria is in talks with Vimpelcom aimed at resolving a tug of war over the Russian telecoms group's mobile phone unit Djezzy and efforts to find a resolution could now speed up, according to Algeria's finance minister, Karim Djoudi.

Vimpelcom hoped to acquire Djezzy as part of a planned $6 billion acquisition of Wind Telecom, parent of Djezzy's owner Orascom Telecom. But Djezzy's status was left unclear after Algeria said it wanted to take the business over itself.

Djoudi's comments were the strongest hint yet that a resolution could be close after more than a year of deadlock over Djezzy, which had been the most lucrative part of Orascom Telecom's business.

Asked about Djezzy, Djoudi said: "Things are taking place normally. I have had a meeting with a Vimpelcom representative at his request. Unfortunately, I cannot give you details because we are in talks."

He said a valuation of Djezzy, a crucial step in determining the unit's future, was proceeding. "It is possible that things will go fast," Djoudi said. "There is a willingness on the other side to make things go fast."

It remains unclear what shape a deal on Djezzy could take. There has been some speculation that the Algerian government could acquire a 51 percent stake and allow Vimpelcom to hold the remaining equity and be the operator.

Before the Vimpelcom deal, Orascom Telecom was forced to agree to talks on Djezzy's nationalisation after it was hit with millions of dollars in back-tax demands from Algeria and prevented from moving the unit's cash abroad.

Talks about the nationalisation had been stalled because of a dispute between the Algerian government and Djezzy's owners about how the unit is to be valued, and how much access the owners would provide to Djezzy's balance sheet.

Djoudi suggested that issue had now been resolved. "We have opened the data room which gives us access to all ... (Djezzy's) details," he said.