Any day you can say your annual growth rate "slowed to 57%" is a good one.

As my Foolish colleague Seth Jayson pointed out last year, one good argument against investing in Russian mobile telecom VimpelCom (NYSE:VIP) is its slowing growth rate. But as Seth also pointed out, that's sort of like saying that the Space Shuttle slows down upon re-entry; when you're going mind-bogglingly fast to begin with, a little deceleration isn't always a big deal. Last year, we clocked the company's year-over-year revenue growth rates at 78%, 71%, and 61% in three successive quarters. Over the past six months, the company's deceleration has continued apace, with revenue coming in "just" 59% greater than the company collected in the first half of 2004.

Profit growth also decelerated somewhat, but still clocked in at a 62% year-over-year increase for 1H 2005. In profits per diluted share, however, VimpelCom really hit the brakes. Last November, the company absorbed its majority-owned regional subsidiary, the unimaginatively named "VimpelCom-Region," by issuing nearly 11 million new VimpelCom shares to buy out the other stakeholders. As a result, VimpelCom's average outstanding share count has increased from 40.2 million to 51.1 million shares. That massive dose of share dilution sapped the company's per-share profits, limiting growth to just 27% for both common shares and American Depositary Shares. (The latter are traded in the U.S., with each ADS representing one-fourth of a Russian common share.)

Even so, bear in mind that while growth is decelerating at Russia's No. 2 mobile telecom, its overall numbers are still going up: revenue, earnings, perhaps even market share. VimpelCom, citing unnamed "independent research," pegged its current Russian market share at 34.5%, up 160 basis points from a year ago. In Kazakhstan, VimpelCom's KaR-Tel subsidiary estimates its own market share at 38.2%, a 900-basis-point increase over last year.

Both of those numbers suggest that VimpelCom is not just profitable, not just growing rapidly in an absolute sense, but also building a defensible "moat" around its business while squeezing out competitors. That said, VimpelCom's numbers would be more credible if the company named the source of its Russian "independent research" and found someone to back up its self-calculated Kazakhstan numbers.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article.