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British telecommunications group owned by Roman Abramovich sold to tech entrepreneur for one




British telecommunications group Truphone, owned by Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich and his colleagues, was acquired by two European tech entrepreneurs for a pound.

Truphone appointed FRP Advisory, a restructuring expert, to carry out the sale of the company’s assets after UK and European authorities imposed sanctions on the Russian billionaire and the group’s future was in doubt.

The company was valued at £410mn in 2020 and has received investments of over £300mn from Abramovich and his two Russian business partners Alexander Abramov and Alexander Frolov.

German businessman Hakan Koç, who co-founded the used car company Auto1, and his business associate, former telecommunications manager and private equity investor Pyrros Koussios, will own 90% and 10% respectively of the company.

The sale of fire gives an early picture of the fate of a company entangled in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Businesses across the West that have imposed sanctions on individuals, owners and investors on their boards of directors have grappled with a myriad of problems since the February invasion, including loss of customers, difficulties in accessing finance and damage to public reputation.

Abramović was forced to sell Premier League football club Chelsea after sanctions agreed to last month for £4.25 billion.

Truphone, with Abramovich holding a 23% stake and Abramov and Frolov holding most of the remaining shares, posted a 15-year straight loss, including £16m in 2020.

The telecom group sells contracts to corporate customers, including banks, who want a secure network and want to avoid roaming charges for their employees. It also provides embedded simulation to various technology companies, including Apple.

Last year, Koç, backed by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, listed Auto1 on the German public market, raising €1.8 billion and valuing the company at €10 billion.

Auto1 had previously been funded by Target Global, a venture capital firm run by Frolov’s son, but Koç said neither he nor Koussios had a direct relationship with the current owner of Truphone and had never met.

As part of the sale, which is expected to close this month, the current owners have pledged to invest more than £10 million in the business and will face certain contractual liabilities, according to those familiar with the transaction.

One-time payments and liabilities, including a fine of $660,000 from the Federal Communications Commission, the US regulator, for misrepresentation of the corporate ownership structure will be paid by the existing owners of Truphone.

According to the sale agreement, if the company performs well and materializes value through a market listing or capital increase, the current Russian owners will receive up to a third of the original funds invested, people described the deal. Had Abramovich continued to be sanctioned at the time, he would not receive the funds.

Truphone’s proposed sale to Koç was first reported by The Times.




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