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'Not going to roll down and die'

Norwegian company Telenor says it will bid in 2G auction, but keeps exit option open

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

Norway-based telecom company Telenor — the majority partner in Unitech Wireless, which operates under the brand name Uninor — said on Monday it would participate in the likely 2G spectrum auction. However, it did not rule out the possibility of exiting India.

Uninor is one of the service providers whose licences were cancelled by the Supreme Court last week. In a verdict that shook the telecom industry, the court cancelled the 122 licences awarded in 2008 by the then telecom minister, A Raja, holding these were issued in a “totally arbitrary and unconstitutional manner”.

Telenor is of the view that it was “unfairly harmed” by the order. Sigve Brekke, head of Telenor’s Asia operations, told reporters at a press conference on Monday that the auction should be restricted only to those players who got licences in 2008 and not to those who were incumbents. The Norwegian company will decide on bidding after reviewing the auction guidelines, the base price and the reserve price.

Brekke said he was angry and upset with the apex court’s decision and would opt for legal methods in seeking a review. “We are not going to roll down and die,” he said.

Telenor entered India in 2008 by acquiring a majority stake in Uninor from real estate major Unitech. It holds 67.25 per cent ownership share in the company. “We have been asked to lose all just because India, in hindsight, has changed its mind. Is that fair?” Brekke asked. Brekke said the company had long-term plans for India and was working out its strategy for the next 10-15 years. The company would roll out its advertising campaign soon, to increase media visibility, Brekke said. “Uninor services are continuing. This means we will continue to serve our 36 million customers, work with our 22,000 partners and keep building our presence in the market,” he added.

Meanwhile, Norwegian IT minister Rigmor Aasrud said she had sought an appointment with communications & information minister Kapil Sibal tomorrow to raise the issue. Addressing the media here, she said she had accepted the court verdict. “It’s important Norwegian companies that have invested in India get transparency, fair and stable long-term treatment,” she added. On legal recourse, Aasrud said Uninor would take a decision on that. “We will inform the Indian authorities of the Norwegian government’s point of view,” Aasrud said.

The Supreme Court asked the government to seek fresh recommendations from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for allocation of licences and spectrum through auction.

First Published: Tue, February 07 2012. 00:32 IST