MegaFon boss takes a bite out of Apple

Uses British tax haven firm to swoop on shares

Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov has splashed out $100 million investing in Apple, it has emerged, through his Virgin Islands firm USM Holdings. Usmanov – recently revealed as Britain’s richest man here, also uses USM to control MegaFon, Russia’s second largest mobile phone operator and its fourth largest telecom operator serving 62.1 million subscribers, via his Garsdale telecoms holding. Apple’s stock has fallen 38 per cent since its September high, though when and at what price Usmanov acquired his Apple shares is unclear.

Usmanov holds 100 per cent of voting rights in the tax haven holding firm, set up last year as a vehicle for his and others’ technology, media, telecommunication and mining assets.

The corporate use of secretive tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands is currently being investigated by UK chancellor George Osborne, who has just persuaded it and similar British overseas havens to sign up to the government’s strategy on global tax transparency.

Usmanov, who is rumoured to have mafia links and is close to the Kremlin, once spent six years in a prison in his native Uzbekistan after he was convicted of embezzlement and fraud.

He was later exonerated by the Soviet courts and his record cleared.

In Britain, where he has a Surrey mansion previously owned by property of oil baron J Paul Getty, Usmanov recently floated a 15 per cent stake in MagaFon on the London Stock Exchange.

It was hailed at the time as the largest new capital raising by a telecommunications company in London since Orange in 2001.

So far, USM has declined to declined to comment on its incursion into Apple’s stock, though Usmanov also invested in Facebook during the economic downturn of 2009, selling his $1.7 billion stake when the social networking site floated last May.

About Dave Evans

Dave Evans is a long established commentator on both the IT and cellular industries. His current focus is on share price trends within the sector. You can email him here
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