India’s Competition Commission has approved the proposed sale of a 51% stake in Norwegian telco Telenor’s new Indian unit Telewings to Lakshdeep Investments and Finance but has ruled that the transfer of business from Uninor – Telenor’s ill-fated joint venture wireless operator with real estate firm Unitech – cannot be considered an intra-group asset transfer. Money Control cites a statement from the watchdog as saying that: ‘The proposed acquisition of 51% of the shares of Telewings by Lakshdeep is not likely to have any appreciable adverse effect on competition in India.’ As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Uninor had its licences revoked by the Supreme Court in February this year and, after an acrimonious split with former partner Unitech, Telenor opted to remain in the market, winning spectrum rights in six circles.
The transition from Uninor to Telewings was planned to take place in four steps: after being declared successful in the 2G auction, Lakshdeep would take a 51% stake in the company. Telewings would then purchase its 2G licences and acquire the business of Uninor. Finally, Telenor would increase its shareholding in Telewings to 74%, the maximum allowed by India’s foreign ownership laws.
In a related development, the Norwegian company was informed earlier this week that it could not adjust the cost of its newly-won 2G spectrum by the INR16.58 billion (USD305 million) it had paid for its concessions in 2008, as other operators may be allowed to. An official source was cited as saying: ‘Telewings is a different company. It is not eligible [for a refund].’