Alfa and Telenor battle intensifies

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The Independent Online

Altimo, the telecoms arm of a $20bn Russian investment company Alfa Group, has reignited its public brawl with Norwegian telecoms company Telenor, sending an open letter alleging potential "questionable activity".

While the two have been "at each others throats" for some time according to insiders, the battle intensified yesterday as Altimo chairman Andrei Kosgov wrote to Telenor chairman Harald Norvick "to raise a matter of utmost seriousness".

Altimo asked for reassurance that Telenor was not involved in five alleged "questionable" activities that it said have affected the Russian group. These included claims its management and shareholders had been put under surveillance; that pr and legal firms had launched a smear campaign against Altimo and that attempts may have been made to disrupt Altimo's international board. The board includes former foreign secretary Lord Hurd.

Telenor, which is majority owned by the Norway government, responded swiftly, saying Altimo's letter was "absurd and unfounded" and diverted attention from next week's litigation hearing between the two. It added that some of the documents "have been clearly altered or forged".The two companies are co-investors in mobile group Vimpelcom, but fell out in 2004 over a difference of strategic opinion over whether it should enter into the Ukraine.