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Expropriation makes a comeback in Russia, with a twist

Glimmerings of a return to the bad old days, when governments “nationalized” telecom companies. The end result was pillage by the government flunkies and bad/no service to the public. The Russians are back in this game, but this time through the courts and with a different beneficiary, the local partner oligarch.

Already jittery investors were alarmed on Thursday when a Norwegian cellphone company announced that a Siberian court had seized its multibillion-dollar investment in a Russian joint venture and would turn it over to a company thought to be allied with a Russian oligarch.

The decision signaled an escalation in a long-running dispute between the Norwegian company, Telenor, and the Alfa Group, an alliance of Russian businessmen that was also at the center of a separate fight with the British oil giant BP last summer. That dispute also shook faith in the Russian market.

Russia’s stock market fell on the news of the asset seizure.

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