Foreign telecom firms want government to clarify stand

February 2nd, 2012 - 6:42 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) Norwegian firm Telenor Thursday sought a fair deal from the Indian government to protect its investment in the country after the Supreme Court cancelled the license of its joint venture Uninor, while analysts viewed the verdict as a setback for foreign investment in the sector, at least in the short run.

“We look to the government to arrive at a fair outcome that doesn’t jeopardize our lawful investment,” said Glenn Mandelid, director of communications, Telenor Group.

“We are reviewing the order and will consider necessary actions to safeguard our investment.”

The Supreme Court cancelled all 122 licences issued to telecom firms in 2008. However, the apex court has given four months’ time to the country’s telecom regulator to look into the matter and make recommendations for the fresh auctions.

Mandelid said the Supreme Court’s decision should not be inflicted on its investment, as the company’s participation in the Indian JV started after 2008 spectrum allocation.

“When we have not caused any of the faults found by the courts, it is obvious to everyone that our investment must not be jeopardized,” he said.

Telenor has invested more than Rs.6,100 crore in equity and over Rs.8,000 crore in corporate guarantees as a foreign investor in Uninor.

Unior on its behalf said it had been unfairly treated, even as it followed the regulatory process to acquire the 2G spectrum.

“We are shocked to see that Uninor is being penalized for faults the court has found in the government process,” said a company spokesperson.

The company said the current order by the apex court did not entail Uninor to stop operations.

“We expect the authorities to ensure that our 36 million customers, 17,500 workforce and 22,000 partners are not unjustly affected.”

Another telcom operator, Sistema Shyam TeleServices (SSTL), which operates under MTS brand in India, said it would resort to all means under the law to protect its interests.

“The company would like to state that being a law abiding organisation, it reserves the right to protect its interests by using all available judicial remedies.”

SSTL is a joint venture between Sistema Joint Stock Financial Corporation of Russia and the Shyam Group of India.

Analysts pointed out that players like Sistema and Etisalat are government-controlled companies and these foreign governments would now be cautious about doing business in India.

And, they said, getting foreign direct investment in the sector could be a bit more challenging for the country, till the policy framework is clarified.

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