According to the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, RÚV, the investment company Novator has been issued a license by the Icelandic Post and Telecommunications Authority for trial operations of a 3G mobile telecommunications company commencing this fall.
Novator is controlled by Björgólfur “Thor” Björgólfsson, Iceland’s first dollar billionaire. According to the British newspaper Guardian, Thor made his money in the mafia-infested brewing business in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 2002, Thor and his two partners, his father Björgólfur Gudmundsson and Magnús Thorsteinsson, acquired a controlling stake in the former state-owned bank Landsbanki in a controversial privatization. According to RÚV, Novator is a controlling investor in telecommunications companies in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Poland that are currently deploying 3G networks.
Landsbanki is the second largest shareholder of Dagsbrún (ICEX: DB) which owns Og Vodafone, Iceland’s second largest telco with approximately a third of the market by revenue. Og Vodafone’s main competitor is the former state-owned incumbent, Síminn, also privatized in controversial cricumstances in 2005. Thor Björgólfsson participated in a consortium of bidders for Síminn, but was not successful.