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AT&T Sells Russian Cellular Stakes

May 8, 2002

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MOSCOW (AP) _ AT&T Corp. has sold stakes in 10 Russian cellular operators to a company close to Russian telecommunications giant Svyazinvest, putting an end to an expected sale of the interests to another U.S. company.

Russia’s RTC Leasing announced Tuesday that it bought a 95 percent stake in RTDC Holdings, which owns stakes in 10 Russian regional mobile operators, from AT&T. The price was not disclosed.

Basking Ridge, N.J.-based AT&T acquired the Russian companies in its $44 billion purchase of cable company MediaOne Group in June, 2000, said AT&T spokeswoman Eileen Connolly.

``While we were a major shareholder, it was never strategic to us, so we never became very involved″ in the Russian companies, Connolly said. ``It was always our intent to sell.″

RTC said in a statement that it would develop a strategy for developing its new holding together with Svyazinvest, with an eye to consolidating RTDC’s assets with Svyazinvest companies.

The deal threw a wrench in the plans of Washington, D.C.-based MCT Corp., which operates cellular phone systems in the former Soviet Union. MCT reached a deal with AT&T on the purchase of RTDC in October 2000 and had already put down some of the money, Russian media reported Wednesday.

Garth Self, president of MCT in Russia, criticized the sale to RTC Leasing as ``violating business etiquette,″ the Russian daily Kommersant reported. For its part, AT&T accused MCT of being late on its payments under the first deal, according to the newspaper.

MCT had intended to incorporate the RTDC holdings into its Indigo network of local operators. Now that the planned purchase has fallen through, telecommunications analysts said it would not be worth developing the Indigo brand at all.

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