Telenor in talks for new partner in India
New Delhi: Norwegian firm Telenor on Thursday said it is in discussions to rope in a new partner for its telecom business in India before the government auctions the spectrum.
The company's Indian unit Uninor suffered a major setback after 22 of its licences were cancelled by the Supreme Court in February in the 2G spectrum allocation case.
While cancelling 122 licences in all of various telecom operators, the apex court ordered the government to conduct a fresh spectrum auction, where Telenor intends to participate with a new partner.
"We are in active discussions for partners with handful of people," Telenor Executive Vice President and Head of Region Asia Sigve Brekke told reporters here.
Telenor operates a telecom services joint venture 'Uninor' in India with real estate major Unitech. It holds over 67 percent stake in Uninor, while the rest is with the Indian partner.
Following the cancellation of Uninor's licences, Telenor had said it planned to set up a new company for.
It had also sought damages from Unitech accusing it of "fraud and misrepresentation" of facts based on which it had invested over Rs 6,000 crore in the joint venture.
"I am quite optimistic that we will part with all these issues prior to the auction dates. The day we go into that auction, we need to have established a new company, which has transfered assets, a company with a new partner and the old partner is out. All this needs to be in place before the auctions," he said.
Brekke added that new partner may have 26 per cent share in the new entity, as Indian rules allow foreign companies to own a maximum of 74 per cent stake in a telecom venture.
Telenor and Unitech are embroiled in a legal battle seeking arbitration in dispute over control of Uninor.
While the Norweigan firm wants to transfer the business that was being done under the Uninor brand to the new company, Unitech has contended that it cannot be held responsible for cancellation of licences and shareholders agreement cannot be terminated by any party unilaterally.
The warring partners have already moved the CLB which is hearing cross-petitions filed by them.
Uninor has seen a significant growth in user base in the last few months and added 1.12 million new customers in April taking its user base to 43.55 million at the end of the month.
The companies services are commercially available in 13 circles across India.
Earlier this month, Telenor reported 79.12 percent plunge in the first quarter net profit to 583 million kroner (about USD 100.3 million) due to a 3.9 billion kroner (USD 682 million) write-off in India.