“The process of separating the assets from the towers into a separate company is underway, after which a sale is possible,” Nikolaev said, adding that MTS would have around 23,000 towers by the end of 2021, around 30% more than its closest competitor.
Rival telecommunications operator Veon, whose main market is Russia, told Reuters last month it was focusing on high-margin digital companies after agreeing to sell its Russian tower assets for $ 970 million .
Independent tower companies are keen to access the stable, inflation-linked returns that towers with antennae top generate. Other telecom players have sought to create separate tower units in order to retain some of the potential future growth.
Nikolaev, who said negotiations for the sale were ongoing, said MTS had other priorities beyond telecommunications.
MTS is one of several Russian companies expanding services beyond its core business, including MTS Bank, e-commerce and streaming service KION.
MTS is also preparing changes to its dividend policy, Nikolaev said, with several different options being discussed.
“The most appropriate, in our opinion, is a scenario where we will pay more than twice a year and overall no less than under the previous policy,” he said.
The company announced in July that it plans to pay a dividend in the first half of 2021 of 10.55 rubles per ordinary share, paying a total of 21.08 billion rubles ($ 290 million) in interim dividends.