Two-and-a-half months after the Supreme Court cancelled its 2G licences across 21 circles, Uninor hinted on Friday that a solution to the spectrum impasse was round the corner.
“When I say we are hopeful of a solution, I am not betting on it from the air,” said Sigve Brekke, Uninor’s managing director (India and South Asia). “There is no Plan B in place for even our employees.... While I would not like to comment on details, there have been meetings, as a result of which we hope to continue our operations in India.”
The “meetings” included one in Korea in March between the Indian and Norwegian prime ministers. Also, a few weeks ago, the Scandinavian nation’s trade minister met finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to discuss the fortunes of the beleaguered telecom firm — a joint venture between Oslo-based Telenor Group and India’s Unitech Group.
Telenor has invested Rs 14,500 crore in India since 2007, Brekke said on Friday. This included the money that was shelled out for buying the 2G spectrum, he added.
“We expect now that the auction happens before June 2, once the DoT (Department of Telecommunications) gives its recommendation for the auction scheme. If not, then the 400 days being touted for the spectrum auction should be aligned with the date of cancellation of licences,” he said.
Telenor owns 67.5 per cent of the JV, while the rest is owned by Delhi-based Unitech, a real estate developer.
Things had soured for the two when on February 2, the Supreme Court cancelled all licences given to Uninor imposing a June 2 deadline after which the company would no longer be able to operate in India.
Telenor has since decided to scrap the JV and has asked the Foreign Investment Promotion Board for permission to transfer all Uninor assets to a new company in which Telenor will hold 74 per cent shares. The proposal is currently under consideration.
The rest will be held by an Indian partner. “We are still in the process of talking to four-five interested parties, but have not arrived at any final decision,” Brekke said when asked about the new Indian partner.
Despite the cancellation of spectrum, Uninor has continued to add subscribers. In February, the company added 2.34 million subscribers taking their total subscriber base to 41.14 million.
Uninor currently has 70,000 employees across the country.