Vodafone & Russia’s Mobile TeleSystems May Partner

Vodafone Group Plc, the world’s largest wireless company, is close to an agreement with Russia’s OAO Mobile TeleSystems to jointly promote products and services.

The partnership, which won’t include equity stakes, would allow Mobile TeleSystems to offer Vodafone-brand services, handsets and modems in Russia. In May, Newbury, England-based Vodafone announced a similar agreement with Chile’s Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones SA.

The collaboration would allow Vodafone to tap growth in Russia, where Mobile TeleSystems is the largest mobile-phone company. Vodafone has expanded in emerging markets with acquisitions in Turkey, India and Ghana to make up for slower growth in Western Europe. The company scaled back its sales forecast in July, saying it faced a “more challenging” environment as Spain’s economy cooled and call prices dropped.

The Mobile TeleSystems deal would come after Vodafone revamped its organization structure to work in emerging markets more efficiently. Management of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia will be split in two beginning Jan. 1, the company said in September.

Russia, with a population of 142 million people, had almost 180 million wireless subscribers at the end of September, according to Moscow-based researcher Advanced Communications & Media. That will rise to 193.5 million by 2010, according to IE Market Research Corp. of Vancouver, Canada. The nation is in its 10th straight year of economic growth.

Mobile TeleSystems had more than 61 million subscribers in Russia at the end of September.