Commercial Court decision in Bulgarian telecommunications dispute

Judgment was handed down in the Commercial Court on 7 February 2018 following a preliminary issues hearing in the case of LIC Telecommunications SARL v VTB Capital Plc and Others [2018] EWHC 169 (Comm). The claim concerns the ownership of the Vivacom Group which is one of the main players in the Bulgarian telecommunications industry.

The shares, which are the subject of the dispute, were sold to Viva Telecom (Luxembourg) SA in 2015 for €330million. The Claimants, both alleged to be ultimately beneficially owned by Russian businessman Dmitry Kosarev, contend that the sale of the shares was rigged and the product of a conspiracy to defraud them of their indirect ownership of the Vivacom Group. The Claimants rely on Luxembourg law and a preliminary issues hearing was held to determine whether the Claimants’ claims were, in fact, precluded by Luxembourg law.

HHJ Waksman QC (sitting as a Judge of the High Court) held that as a matter of Luxembourg law the Claimants were precluded from claiming damages for the loss of their indirect interest in the Vivacom Group and from setting aside the sale of the shares. However, the Judge held that the Claimants were not precluded from claiming damages for the loss of a chance to acquire the shares themselves and/or control over the Vivacom Group and that this element of the claim should go to a full trial.

Graham Chapman QC and Tom Ogden, instructed by CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP, acted for the Fifth Defendant.

The judgment can be read here.