Uzbekistan to take another stab at unloading MTS assets

By bne IntelliNews July 19, 2013

bne -

Uzbekistan is to make a second attempt on July 31 to sell off property owned by Uzdunrobita, the local unit of Russian telecoms operator MTS. A previous attempt to auction the bankrupt company's assets failed on July 1 in the face of a lack of bids.

According to RIA Novosti, a starting price of UZS471bn ($224m) has been set, with bidders required to pay a guarantee of 20% to enter the auction. The deadline for bids is July 28.

The starting price is significantly lower than in the first attempt to auction the assets, when a price of UZS600bn ($299m) was set. The second try to offload the property was initially due to take place on July 12, but that did not happen.

The Uzbek authorities announced in June that they hope to attract a new company to operate on the spectrum previously used by Uzdunrobita. Neither of Uzbekistan's two remaining operators - Beeline Uzbekistan and TeliaSonera's Ucell, - will be allowed to take any part of the newly available bandwidth.

Previously Uzbekistan's largest mobile operator, MTS was forced out of the market last year. Its operating licence was suspended in July 2012, after the communications regulator cited "numerous and systematic violations" of operating procedures.

In September, the Tashkent Criminal Court ruled in favour of a request by the the Uzbek state to confiscate Uzdunrobita's assets. That ruling was overturned on appeal, and the company instead ordered to pay around $600m in damages. Unable, or unwilling, to stump up that sum, Uzdunrobita was declared bankrupt by the Tashkent Economic Court in April, and is due to be liquidated within one year.

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