MTS Pulls Out Of Bidding For Kazakh Mobile Operator

MOSCOW (Dow Jones)SEPTEMBER 15, 2009-Russia’s largest mobile operator OAO Mobile TeleSystems (MBT) Tuesday confirmed that it has pulled out of the tender for Kazakstan’s third-largest mobile operator Mobile Telecom Service.

“The payback period of the investments did not meet MTS’s criteria,” the operator said in an emailed statement, which confirmed earlier reports.

New York-listed Mobile TeleSystems, or MTS, controlled by conglomerate AFK Sistema (AFKS.RS), registered its interest in Mobile Telecom Service this summer.

In the statement explaining its decision, MTS noted that Mobile Telecom Service would need to invest substantially in order to increase its 3% share of the Kazakhstan’s mobile subscribers.

State-controlled Kazakhtelecom (KZTK.KZ) is selling its 51% stake in Mobile Telecom Service as part of restructuring, and had set a deadline of Aug. 31 for binding offers.

“We would not have expected MTS to get any potential positive cash flow from the Kazakh operations earlier than in three to five years,” VTB Capital said in a research note.

The were 15.3 million mobile subscribers in Kazakhstan at the end of June, according to consultants Advanced Communications & Media. KaR-Tel, owned by MTS rival Vimpel Communications (VIP) is the country’s largest operator.