Uninor is focusing on positioning itself as an ultra low cost operator in India, in a market rife with multi-SIM usage. Uninor holds UAS licence to offer mobile services in the 22 telecom circles in India. It has rolled out in 21 circles and is commercially present in 13 circles.

Uninor reported revenues of NOK 400 million (approximately Rs. 314 crore) for the quarter ended December 31st 2010, an increase of 87%, which the company attributes to growth in subscription base and ARPU. It registered an EBITDA loss of NOK 1026 million (Rs. 806  crore) slightly lower than previous quarters mainly due to adjusted energy expenses somewhat offset by sales and marketing costs, and an operating loss of NOK 1272 million (Rs. 1000 crore). This effectively marks a change for Uninor, from being in startup mode to operational.

Details: ReportSpreadsheetWebcast

Telenor had allocated Rs 15,500 crore as peak funding(accumulated operating cash flow upto break-even) for Uninor, out of which it has accumulated operating cash flow losses of Rs 7,900 crore as of Q4 2010. A short term facility of Rs 2,500 crore was refinanced in the quarter.The estimated accumulated operating cash flow losses  by the end of 2011 are in the range of Rs 116-120 billion. Project financing from banks is not feasible at the moment owing to the ongoing 2G spectrum turmoil and Telenor will continue to provide loans to Telenor.

Uninor had begun offering services in December 2009. Telenor owns 67.25% in Uninor, while the Unitech Group owns 32.75%.

ARPU & CAPEX

Uninor has added 4.337 million subscriptions,  compared to 4.045 million in the last quarter and its total subscriber base is 12.3 million. The company’s ARPU was Rs 99 for the quarter, an increase of 2%, driven by higher usage per subscriber. The Capital expenditure was NOK 350 million  (र  275 crore).

Full Year Guidance

For the full year (2011) Uninor expects to contribute an EBITDA loss around NOK 4 billion and capital expenditure in the range of NOK 1.0–1.5 billion.

Regulatory Concerns

On its earnings conference call, the company’s management has expressed concern about the unclear regulatory situation in the Indian telecom sector, saying that the Indian authorities should keep their part of the agreement that grants 6.2 Mhz spectrum to Uninor without additional payment; this is with reference to a statement from India’s telecom minister Kapil Sibal, that spectrum beyond 4.4Mhz will be charged extra. Questions have also been raised about Unitech selling stake to Telenor, following which, the company issued a statement (below)

Telenor execs said that the licence terms in 2008 were different and that there were questions raised on the deadline date of the network roll that operators had to meet. Also some of delays were created by Indian authorities as new mechanisms were introduced for network equipment validation, that weren’t there before. They added that Uninor has met with its obligations stated in the licence terms and has created competition in the market. They refused to comment on grounds of confidentiality, when an investor wanted to know about the provisions for recourse on adverse regulatory decisions in Telenor’s agreement with Unitech.

On Cost Effectiveness & MNP

Uninor had repositioned its branding last summer and is seeing increased traction amongst consumers. It is looking for deeper efficiencies and will focus on utilizing assets and airtime more cost effectively. When MediaNama asked about the impact of MNP, Telenor execs replied that they have seen only marginal positive effects as India is a multi-SIM market with a large prepaid customer base.

Unitech Statement on Uninor

Unitech recently released a statement regarding the Unitech-Telenor joint venture. Excerpts from the statement sent to us:
1. Unitech Ltd has a Telecom JV with the Telenor Group, Uninor ( which is the Telecom Company )
2. Unitech Ltd. has not sold any shares held by it in Uninor to the Telenor Group. The Telenor Group has invested Rs 6135 Crore in fresh shares over four rounds of investments, linked to milestones, to hold 67.25% stake in the venture. While the licenses were issued in February 2008, the first round of investment from Telenor in Uninor was received after 13 months in March 2009 and the fourth round in February 2010 after receiving the FIPB clearance.

Infact, the Telecom company had already done significant work to establish the telecom business prior to the partnership with Telenor Group. For instance:

(a) Incurred license fee, substantial pre-operating expenses, interest costs and had given the bank guarantee;
(b) Established Corporate offices in Noida and Project Offices in 5 circles;
(c) Recruited direct employees including the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Technical Officer, Chief Human Resource Officer, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Regulatory Officer, and many others indirectly through outsourcing contracts;
(d) Tied up more than 40,000 towers for a speedy rollout.
(e) Ordered equipment and implemented IT Services contracts.
(f) Initiated/Completed comprehensive work for rollout including radio-planning, procurement for critical IT and Network infrastructure, brand building etc.
3. This additional capital, from Telenor, has come into Uninor and remains within Uninor which being a serious player in the market, and like other telecom operators, funded its business operations through a mix of equity and loan, which includes funds spent on towers, 60 offices, 280000 points of sale with more than 16 million subscribers.
4. Over the past 4 months, our JV with the Telenor Group, Uninor has consistently added over 2 million new subscribers each month, emerging as the 2nd or 3rd largest operator in terms of subscriber additions pan India – and the number 1 in many circles making it one of the fastest growing Telecom Services Companies in India