June 6, 2022
UK eSim firm Truphone, which is partly owned by Roman Abramovich, is reportedly being sold for £1 to two investors following sanctions against Russian business people.
The firm announced back in April that it had appointed FRP Advisory to ‘support the company in an immediate review of its strategic options’ following international sanctions placed on Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who they say has been a ‘minority investor since 2013.’
The Financial Times reports that the company is now being sold for £1 to Hakan Koç, a German businessman who co-founded a used car business called Auto1, and Pyrros Koussios, a former telco exec and private equity investor. Koç will own 90% of the firm and Koussios the other 10%.
Abramovich was previously forced to sell Chelsea football club after he was one of many Russian businesspeople/investors/oligarchs to be slapped with sanctions following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The company said in April that “It should be emphasised that Truphone is not subject to any sanctions. The business will continue to operate as usual, and we remain committed to delivering the highest quality of service to customers and partners, as well as ongoing support to its employees.”
At the end of April US comms regulator The Federal Communications Commission proposed a fine of $660,639 against Truphone (through Montana-based subsidiary iSmart Mobile) for ‘exceeding statutory limits for ownership by foreign individuals or entities holding equity or voting interests in FCC-issued licenses without Commission approval.’
The FCC claimed that the ownership of Truphone and control of its FCC licenses were transferred repeatedly to foreign individuals without disclosure to authorities. Or as a quote by Commissioner Geoffrey Starks more plainly put it: Truphone “has been indirectly owned by a group of Russian oligarchs since at least 2011.”
The FT says the sale is expected to complete this month, however one-off payments and debts – including the FCC fine – will be paid by Truphone’s existing owners. Apparently under the arrangements of the sale, if Truphone’s performance improves and it gets a market listing or capital raise, the current Russian owners will receive up to a third of the original funds that they invested. However if that sanctions stay in place, that won’t happen.
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