Telenor : Norway Minister : Telenor Risks Big Loss in India
06/05/2012| 10:12am US/Eastern
("Norway Minister: Telenor Risks Big Loss in India," at 1331 GMT, misstated the currency in the second paragraph. The correct version follows:)
By Kjetil Malkenes Hovland
OSLO--Norway's Telenor ASA (TEL.OS) risks suffering the biggest foreign investment loss ever for a Norwegian company on its Indian operations, Norway's minister of trade and industry said Tuesday, while waiting for India to decide if Telenor can participate in a crucial bandwidth auction.
The Norwegian government owns 54% of Telenor. The company risks losing up to NOK20 billion ($3.27 billion) if has to drop its Indian operations, Trond Giske said.
"It's a lot of money, and we need to do all we can to maintain this investment," Giske said in an interview. "If Telenor's India investments are lost, it will probably be the biggest loss any Norwegian company has made in a foreign investment ever."
Telenor's Indian unit, Unitech Wireless Ltd., may have to close its operations unless it gets radio bandwidth reallocated to it. The Supreme Court of India has revoked the telecom licenses of Unitech Wireless and several other companies, citing corruption in their allotment in 2008.
Speaking at a conference about government ownership in Oslo, Giske said he was awaiting the outcome of a meeting in India Tuesday, which could determine whether Telenor can participate in an upcoming auction for radio bandwidth.
"There's a meeting in a ministerial panel today. We don't know if they will reach an agreement, or if there are more meetings, but we are awaiting the solution," Giske said, likely referring to a ministerial panel which is expected to determine the base price of an upcoming bandwidth auction.
The Indian Supreme Court has asked the government to conduct a bandwidth auction by Aug. 31 and allowed the operators that are set to lose their permits to continue providing services until Sept. 7.
Write to Kjetil Malkenes Hovland at email@example.com