Norway minister lobbies for Telenor


12 Jan 2012
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Norway minister meets Montek, lobbies to protect Telenor interest

India's reputation as a destination for foreign investment could be dented if telecom operator Telenor quits India due to licensing and regulatory issues, Norway's trade and industry minister Trond Giske said on Saturday as he launched a bid to urge the government to solve the impasse.
Giske, along with Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas and other officials of the telecom firm, met Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to present their case. He will also meet communications and information technology minister Kapil Sibal as the firm mounted an effort to protect its operations that entail 17,000 employees and 40 million customers. Telenor is 54% owned by the Norwegian government.

Telenor holds 67.25% stake in Uninor, and the remaining is held by Unitech. Unitech Wireless' 22 licences were among the 122 cancelled by the Supreme Court in February on grounds that former telecom minister A Raja ignored norms while issuing them. The SC has ordered a fresh auction and operators whose licences were cancelled have till September 7.

"If a company like Telenor can lose $3 billion in India, it has an effect on other foreign investors. They ask if your (state-run) company can lose that money, how will private companies be treated?" Giske asked referring to its investment in India.

He also said if Telenor's investment in India fails it would probably be the biggest loss in foreign investment for a Norwegian firm. Giske said this would have an impact on other investors but added it was possible to find a solution. He said he discussion with Indian policymakers was fruitful and was hopeful of a resolution.

"I think it is possible to strike a balance and find a common ground where both Supreme Court decisions are fully respected, revenues to the Indian government is secure and competition and good service are provided to customers through participation of Telenor," Giske said.

Telenor has also said the recommendation of the telecom regulator TRAI on spectrum auction is "out of proportion" and the firm has said it would explore options if the proposals go through. The Norwegian company is looking at severing ties with its Unitech, but on Saturday the CEO of Telenor said currently the firm's focus is on the regulatory aspect.

The Norwegian firm had earlier threatened to exit India, saying it will be tough to meet the spectrum auction norms and Trai obligations.

They dont want to leave behind the infrastructure they have, if gioven chance, they would love to stay !
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