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Telenor Back in Court Over VimpelCom

VimpelCom's offices in Moscow, featuring the company's Beeline logo. Maxim Stulov

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service filed a claim in a Moscow commercial court alleging Telenor's February purchase of VimpelCom shares was illegal and that it would seek to undo the deal, the Norwegian telecoms company said Thursday.

The claim is the latest step in a long-running corporate battle over how mobile-phone operator VimpelCom should be run, which has come to typify the difficulties faced by overseas investors in Russia's oligarch-controlled business world.

The claim alleges that the deal violated the Russian Strategic Investment Law and the federal service wants Telenor to return the shares in VimpelCom, the Norwegian state-controlled firm said.

Telenor wrested back partial control of VimpelCom from Alfa Group in February in a surprise move that aimed to give it more say over strategy but threatened to extend a long-running corporate battle.

Telenor then bought 234 million shares in VimpelCom, boosting its voting share to 36.36 percent from 25 percent and meaning that it no longer had to go ahead with court proceedings against old adversary and fellow shareholder Altimo, a unit of Alfa Group.

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