UK telecoms operator, share of which belonged to Russian oligarch Abramovich, sold for GBP 1

25 January, 12:44 PM
Roman Abramovich (Photo:Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters)

Roman Abramovich (Photo:Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters)

British telecoms company Truphone was bought for GBP 1 by two European businessmen following months of uncertainty after sanctions on Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, news agency Interfax reported on Jan. 24.

Truphone was bought by TP Global Operations on Jan. 24, a company owned by businessmen Hakan Koc and Pirros Kousios, following a lengthy government probe into the national security implications of the deal.

The businessmen said in a statement that the deal had been approved by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Truphone has also received a license from the Office for Financial Sanctions (OFSI) of the UK Treasury.

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“It’s very relieving, we can finally get to work,” said Koc in an interview with the Financial Times on Jan. 24.

“It has been very burdensome for the employees, not knowing the direction of the company. Our customers have been very loyal (and) now we can finally tell them it’s done.”

The investors intend to provide the company with additional financing to support its business and ensure further development, the announcement said.

The company, which was valued at GBP 410 million ($500 million) in 2020, received over GBP 300 million ($370 million) in investment from Abramovich and two other Russian businessmen, Alexander Abramov and Alexander Frolov.

Truphone’s future is in doubt after Britain imposed sanctions on Abramovich, who owned 23% of the company, in March 2022. In June, plans to sell it to European businessmen became public, and in November, when Abramov and Frolov were included in the UK sanctions list, OFSI joined the sale process.

“Truphone hasn’t been profitable until now, so there’s a certain amount of cash we need to (invest) to make it sustainable,” Koc said, arguing that moving the company out of sanctioned individuals’ hands would create value in itself because several clients have just been waiting for new ownership to initiate business.

The new owners have committed to investing up to GBP 15 million over the next few years in Truphone, which has recorded losses for 15 consecutive years.

It was previously reported that Abramovich had transferred his offshore trusts, which have billions of U.S. dollars in assets, to his children a few weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In this way, he tried to protect his assets from Western sanctions.

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