Business of Megafon and Vimpelcom in Tajikistan is under threat

Tax claim of the Tajikistani officials are forcing the companies to think about leaving this market.
The tax burden has forced mobile operators in Tajikistan to think about the reasonability of doing business in the country, reports Sputnik. The source of the news agency said that the leadership of Tukom (subsidiary of Vimpelcom in Tajikistan, operates under the brand of Beeline Tajikistan) is considering the closure of the company and the country's withdrawal from the mobile communications market. According to the source, the increase in tax payments led to a stable excess of expenditure over income.

The interlocutors of Vedomosti close to the operator, say that the fate of the Tajik asset has not yet been determined, but Vimpelcom, as well as other companies operating on the territory of Tajikistan, really faced a serious threat to business and is considering various scenarios.

In late January, the chairman of the tax committee of the Republic of Tatarstan Nusratullo Davlatzoda at a press conference said that in the course of routine tax audits in 2016 Tajikistan found evidence of concealment of large-value payments in several companies. Subsidiaries of Scandinavian Telia Company Tcell and Russian Megafon, MLT, as Nusratullo said, owed Tajikistan 155 million somoni each (about $19.5 million), and Vimpelcom's subsidiary owed 151,3 million somoni ($18.9 million).

Russian operators didn't comment on the situation. Telia Company announced that it considers the demands to Tcell illegal and intends to appeal against them. In its message Telia noted that the tax claims that emerged as a result of the activities of the company for several months exceeded the annual EBITDA Tcell for 2015. In September 2016 Telia announced the sale of 60% of the company, which controls Tcell, to the second shareholder: the Fund for Economic Development belonging to Aga Khan. The deal was completed last year, but the authorities still have not approved it; Tukom said that in 2016 the company paid taxes at the total sum of $73 million, at the same time earning a total profit of $68 million.

A person close to VimpelCom, says that the amount of tax claims is close to the operator's income in the region. One of Vimpelcom and Megafon's partners said that they were looking for a joint solution in the situation and even wrote a letter to Russian officials, with a request to assist in resolving the issue. Among the recipients of these letters was the communication minister Nikolay Nikiforov.

A person close to one of the operators, said that operators sent a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. He also said that operators had considered the possibility of merging their businesses in a joint venture, but abandoned this option.

Last spring, the Russian Minister of Communications Nikolay Nikiforov visited Tajikistan. During this trip the issue of tax payments to Russian operators was discussed, but no specific claims were made, said a federal official.

The representative of the Ministry of Communications declined to comment. Vimpelcom spokesman declined to comment, either. The representatives of Megafon and Igor Shuvalov has not yet responded to the questions of Vedomosti.