Kazakhstani billionaire Timur Turlov grows his business: Freedom Holding purchases telecom company for $1.1 million

Timur Turlov
Photo credit: Freedom Finance

Freedom Holding Corp., controlled by Timur Turlov, acquired 100% of the shares in the Shymkent telecommunications company — DITel LLP. The deal was closed in January 2024. The purchase price was $1.1 million, reports Kazinform News Agency correspondent, citing Forbes Kazakhstan.

DITel provides telecommunications services and was established in September 2019 (i.e., it has been operating in the market for four years and nine months). According to the list of founders, it was previously owned sequentially by two individuals: for 11 months from its creation by Dmitry Sabazov, and from September 2020 to January 2024, by Timur Teleshev. Sabazov is now the deputy chairman of the board for business development at Freedom Telecom LLP, Turlov’s main telecom asset.

According to the website for checking counterparties, since 2019 up to June 2024, DITel has paid 67.7 million tenge in taxes. The company participates in government procurement. The total amount for 10 contracts and two additional agreements from 2021 - 2024 amounted to 5.9 million tenge (the subject of procurement being internet access for a general education secondary school and the management of architecture, urban planning, and land relations in Shymkent).

As of January 2024, the list of founders of DITel includes a new sole member - the private company Freedom Kazakhstan. This is a subsidiary holding of Freedom Holding Corp., registered in the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) in September 2022 with a capital of 26.7 billion tenge. Through this entity, the Freedom group owns 90% of Comrun and 100% of Ticketon Events, Paybox Technologies, Aviata, LLP “Internet Tourism” (Chocotravel), the special purpose company FRHC Fractional SPC Ltd (which owns 10% of the ITS stock exchange platform), Freedom Advertising Ltd, and Freedom Telecom Holding Ltd.

The last entity listed, Freedom Telecom Holding Ltd, has been registered in the Astana International Financial Centre since August 2023. Its capital is $100 million. Freedom Holding Corp. specifically created this company to manage its telecommunications business, announcing its intention to develop this sector in November 2023, when it approved a strategic plan for business expansion.

Freedom Holding Ltd. is prepared to spend $650 million on its telecom business over the next five years. In December 2023, the holding company raised $200 million by issuing 5-year dollar-denominated bonds on the AIX as the first tranche of a bond program totaling $1 billion. The deal, as reported by the company at the time, took place with “almost 100% retail participation.”

In March 2024, Freedom Telecom and JSC “Transtelecom” (TTK) concluded a major deal involving seven data centers. These are likely TTK data centers located in Uralsk, Aktobe, Atyrau, Aktau, Karaganda, Zhezkazgan, and Kyzylorda. One of the ultimate controlling shareholders of “Transtelecom” is Nurali Aliyev (No. 41 in the Forbes Kazakhstan ranking of the 75 wealthiest businessmen).

In January 2024, there were reports that Freedom Telecom might acquire LLP “SilkNetCom” (in consortium with “Transtelecom” this company provides broadband internet to villages), however, due to the lack of available information, the deal apparently did not occur.

At the end of June 2024, Freedom Telecom signed a strategic partnership agreement with Vodafone: the British side will serve as a consultant for the Kazakh company. Timur Turlov explained the need for this partnership by pointing to the emergence of new standards and rapidly changing technologies: to keep up with these, it is necessary to bolster one’s daring and ambition with strong expertise, knowledge, experience, and sometimes even a name.”

Furthermore, Turlov has not abandoned plans to enter the mobile communications market. In July 2023, he announced his intention to create an “entirely new” 5G player. In December 2022, his company participated in a radio frequency auction but did not emerge as one of the winners.

Timur Turlov is the founder and majority owner of Freedom Holding Corp. In the rankings of the 75 wealthiest businessmen (2024) and the 50 most influential businessmen in Kazakhstan (2023), he is placed fifth. Forbes Kazakhstan estimates his net worth at $3.3 billion.

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