Shareholders of international wireless operator VimpelCom Ltd. today approved the purchase of Egyptian-controlled Wind Telecom S.p.A., with the $6.5 billion deal only needing regulatory approvals to be confirmed. VimpelCom hopes that will happen before the second half of the year.
 
Wind Telecom, through its control over Orascom Telecom Holdings, is the minority shareholder and major banker to Toronto-based Wind Mobile. VimpelCom has been silent on its plans for the Canadian unit and won't say anything until the deal is finalized.
 
But in an interview tonday Wind Mobile chairman Anthony Lacavera said the deal should be good for his company. After all, he pointed out VimpelCom made sure Wind Mobile is included among the carriers Wind Telecom is bringing in.
 
Today's vote was anticipated after VimpelCom came to an agreement two weeks ago with one of its biggest shareholders, Norway's Telenor Group, which agreed not to block the vote because of a shareholder's rights issue. Instead it agreed to let that fight be settled by arbitration. The other big shareholder is Russia's Altimo, the telecom investment arm of Alfa Group Consortium.
 
According to VimpelCom, shareholders representing 93.1 per cent of the company’s voting shares participated in today's special general meeting. The resolutions relating to the deal were approved by 53.3 per cent of the voting shares, it noted. It also noted that 60.2 of the public shareholders voted against the resolutions.
In a press release, Telenor — which has said it doesn't like the deal and voted against it today– noted that if Altimo's votes were ignored the majority of the “total economic interests” in VimpelCom were against it.
 
“Even though we believe VimpelCom would have been better off without this deal, we will now continue to work in the best interest of VimpelCom and its shareholders,” said a Telenor spokesman.
 
VimpelCom operates carriers in Russia and seven neighboring former members of the Soviet Union as well as Vietnam and Cambodia under the “Beeline” and “Kyivstar” brands.  Wind Telecom owns all of Wind Italy and 51.7 per cent of Orascom. Orascom operates wireless companies in Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan and North Korea in addition to its holdings here in Wind Mobile.

The enlarged VimpelCom will operate in 19 countries around the world with over 173 million mobile subscribers.

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Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com