Telenor finds new Indian partner

Telenor has found a new Indian partner to replace Unitech, the real-estate company with which it fell out in the wake of the 2G spectrum scandal.

The Norwegian operator is to form a new joint venture with Lakshdeep Investments & Finance (Mumbai, India), using Telewings Communications, a wholly owned Indian unit, as the vehicle to execute the deal.

Telenor has found a new Indian partner to replace Unitech, the real-estate company with which it fell out in the wake of the 2G spectrum scandal.

The Norwegian operator is to form a new joint venture with Lakshdeep Investments & Finance (Mumbai, India), using Telewings Communications, a wholly owned Indian unit, as the vehicle to execute the deal.

Owned by Indian businessman Sudhir Valia, Lakshdeep is to buy an equity stake of 26% in Telewings, with Telenor (Oslo, Norway) holding the maximum 74% of the business allowed under Indian rules on foreign investment in the telecoms sector.

Telewings has already applied for prequalification to participate in the spectrum auction due to start on November 12 and Telenor says a final decision on whether to participate will be made before the auction starts.

Having come this far, the company seems unlikely not to bid for airwaves. Uninor was one of a number of operators that had 2G licences cancelled earlier this year when India’s Supreme Court found there had been irregularities in the 2008 award process.

Indian authorities subsequently announced plans to run another auction, putting the requisitioned spectrum under the hammer once again, and Telenor has sounded keen to remain in the Indian market.

In the meantime, it has been allowed to continue operating services until January.

The company set up with Lakshdeep would replace Uninor, in which Unitech (Gurgaon, India) holds a 33% stake.

Earlier this month, Telenor and Unitech reached a settlement under which Uninor’s 45 million customers and assets would be moved into a new company owned by the Norwegian operator.

Sudhir Valia is mainly known as an executive director and board member of pharmaceuticals company Sun Pharma (Mumbai, India).