Norwegian telecom operator Telenor is holding “constructive dialogue” with its Indian partner Unitech, even as the two are engaged in a bitter legal tussle over auctioning the assets of their joint venture company, Uninor.
“There are two things happening simultaneously. One is the legal battle, which is reported in newspapers. The other is discussions in the boardroom. These discussions are not in the newspapers. So, I cannot share those details,” Sigve Brekke, managing director of Uninor and head of Telenor’s Asia operations, told reporters here on Tuesday.
He declined to comment on whether the two companies would reach an out-of-court settlement. “I don’t want to comment. We are trying to find a solution. We are having a constructive dialogue in the boardroom. The legal processes are also on,” he said.
Yesterday, the Delhi High Court had provided a breather to Uninor, allowing it to accept expressions of interest from bidders interested in buying the company’s business assets through an auction. The court was hearing a petition by Uninor against a Company Law Board (CLB) order that had stayed the auction process. Unitech had filed a petition in the CLB, requesting for a stay on the auction process.
Brekke said Telenor had expressed interest to bid for these assets and was in talks with a “handful” of Indian companies to set up a new joint venture. “I cannot tell you who would be our Indian partner. It will not be Unitech. All along, we have said we want to go into the potential auction with a new company, a new partner. This is because we want to start absolutely fresh. We don’t want any more legacy risk in the new company,” he said.
Telenor would have a stake of 74 per cent stake in the new joint venture. “We went out to quite a few Indian partners and mentioned two conditions. One, we are looking for someone to hold 26 per cent stake, and that’s it. Two, we are looking for someone who would not involve themselves in the business. All the potential partners we are talking to have agreed to this. We have not selected our new partner yet. We cannot do that before the separation with our existing partner happens,” Brekke said.
He clarified the auction process would not require the approval of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). “The actual transfer of assets after the auction would require some approvals from DoT,” he added.
Separately, Brekke said the delay in spectrum auction was affecting Telenor’s plans in India. “Our main worry on (spectrum) auction right now is it is being delayed....This is a problem for us because we have to operate in a very uncertain environment,” he said.