Veon commits to invest US$600m in Ukraine’s Kyivstar

Amsterdam-listed telco holding company Veon has said it will invest US$600 million in Kyivstar, its Ukrainian operation, to fund recovery of infrastructure in the war-ravaged country over the next three years.

Kyivstar is involved in initiatives including a fund to support de-mining in liberated territories in Ukraine

Veon said that the nvestment will span Kyivstar’s infrastructure projects, ensuring essential connectivity and 4G services throughout the country, the development of superior digital services accessible to all Ukrainians, and community support projects.

The operator made the commitment ot the Ukraine Recovery Conference currently taking place in London.

Kyivstar, which offers TV as part of its portfolio of services, has 24.3 million mobile and 1.1 million fixed-line users.

The new investments in network expansion encompass universal LTE and the expansion of fibre, and eventually 5G-focused reconstruction. With the planned expansion of 4G networks, Kyivstar plans to cover 98% of Ukraine’s population in 4G in three years’ time, including in small and remote settlements.

“The past 16 months have shown the world that communications are indeed the lifeline of Ukraine. With the dedication of our 4000-strong team, and the support of our parent company VEON, Kyivstar has been central to Ukraine’s resilience and recovery since the very morning of February 24, 2022,” said Oleksandr Komarov, CEO of Kyivstar.

“Today’s sizeable investment commitment signifies not only a continuation of our track record, but also an acceleration of our investments. At a time when many others are refraining from making future plans, we proudly commit to ‘building back better’ in partnership with public sector counterparts and other national and international stakeholders. We would like to invite other companies to invest with the same enthusiasm to contribute today to the future Ukraine.”

Last November, in a move to extricate itself from Russia, Veon agreed to sell its Russian operation VimpelCom, which operates under the Beeline brand, to its management.

The company said that following a competitive process, it had entered into an agreement to sell its Russian operations to certain senior members of the management team led by CEO Aleksander Torbakhov.

Veon’s largest shareholder LetterOne was the investment vehicle of sanctioned Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, with a 48% stake. Fridman stepped down as a director of LetterOne following the imposition of sanctions after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which saw Veon’s share price nosedive.

In February the sale was approved by the Russian government with conditions. However, the sale has been complicated by difficulties in securing clearances in a number of jurisdictions to repatriate money from the sale.

Also speaking at the London conference was Mykhailo Shelemba, CEO of Ukrainian cable operator Volia, who called on reconstruction funding to be loaned at zero or low interest rates to minimise opportunities for corrupt practices.

Shelemba said that Volia had an obligation to restore infrastructure immediately “because its mission is to serve its customers and help the army and people of Ukraine”.

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