Was told telcos sold stake to finance roll-out: PM

February 16th, 2011 - 4:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, referring to the 2G scam, Wednesday said he was told some telecom operators sold their stake to other companies to finance their roll-out obligations and therefore, he did not interfere. “I was told that they (telcom operators) have not sold it (stake) to stakeholders, they have sold it in a manner to dilute the equity of the promoters. Now if they have to roll-out (services), they require money and that money can be raised by the way of borrowing or by diluting equity,” the prime minister said at a press conference.

“Therefore at that stage I did not think that I should interfere in that matter,” he added.

The companies that got spectrum in 2008 have been accused trying to make a quick buck through it as they sold significant stakes in the telecom firms to foreign joint venture partners or other entities.

According to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Unitech was allotted Unified Access Service licenses in 22 circles for Rs.1,658 crore and offloaded 60 percent of its stake to Norway’s Telenor for Rs.6,100 crore even before roll-out.

Similarly another telecom operator, Swan, was alloted licenses in 13 circles for Rs.1,537 crore and sold 45 percent of its equity to Etisalat for Rs.4,200 crore. The company was later renamed Etilsalat DB Telecom Pvt. Ltd.

Shahid Usman Balwa, managing director of DB Realty, which owns Swan Telecom, is already in CBI custody.

Similar to Swan Telecom and Unitech, another licensor, Datacom, later became Videocon Mobile and S Tel now has a large stake by Bahrain Telecom. The other companies under the scanner are Tata Tele, Idea Cellular, Loop Telecom, Shyam Telelink and Spice.

The 2G scam involves alleged irregularities in the allocation of second generation spectrum to telecom companies that caused huge losses to the national exchequer.

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