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Golden Telecom closes transaction to buy stake in Fortland

MOSCOW, February 8 (RIA Novosti) - Golden Telecom has closed a transaction to acquire a 65% stake in digital operator Fortland Limited for about $51 million, the Russian Internet and telecommunications service provider said Thursday.

GT, which services the main cities of Russia and other former Soviet states, said in a news release that the first installment of $38.6 million would be paid by April 5, 2007.

Fortland owns 100% of Kolangon-Optim, which holds licenses to provide digital TV services in several of the largest cities of Russia, and is expected to target other Russian cities.

These licenses will be used by GT to provide customers with various services, including a greater number of digital television channels, higher picture quality, and the opportunity for pay-per-view broadcasts, all using the Digital Video Broadcast standard in MPEG-4 coding.

The company announced the deal, which will be implemented through its subsidiary SMFT-CIS, in mid-December.

The announcement was accompanied by option agreements with Fortland's other shareholders, Navic Consulting (15%) and Belmark Enterprises (20%), on buying their shares out after September 30, 2010.

GT's major shareholders are Alfa Group's telecoms arm Altimo (29%), Norway's Telenor (20%), and Russia's Rostelecom (11%).

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