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Telenor gets FIPB approval to acquire 100% stake in Uninor

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The Indian government’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) had approved Telenor’s proposal to increase its stake in Uninor to 100% from the existing 74% stake. The telco had received an approval for a foreign direct investment (FDI) of Rs 780.86 crore for this purpose earlier in the month (We missed it then).

Telenor had earlier sought for FIPB approval to buy out its minority stakeholders in Uninor in June this year. The telco had stated plans of investing Rs 780 crore to acquire the 26% stake owned by its Indian partner Lakshdeep Investments & Finance Pvt. Ltd in the joint venture Telewings which provides telecom services in the country under the Uninor brand.

Note that Telenor had previously partnered Lakshdeep Investments & Finance to create a new joint venture Telewings Communications in October 2012. This was after a bitter battle with previous Indian partner Unitech (A Telenor vs Unitech timeline here). Following this, the telco had closed down operations in seven of thirteen operational telecom circles in 2012 and in Q1 2013, including the sudden shutdown of operations in the Mumbai circle.

Telenor had later raised its stake in Telewings to 74% in December last year, after receiving the FIPB approval to increase its stake. It had stated plans of investing up to Rs 1,000 crore in the joint venture in June 2013.

In January this year, Telenor had mentioned that Uninor had reached cash flow break even at the end of 2013, on track with the telco’s plans. It had also acquired spectrum in a new circle of Assam and additional spectrum in four of its six existing circles in the 1800 MHz band – UP East, UP West, Bihar & Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh in the February 2014 2G auctions.

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Verizon proposal deferred: FIPB has however deferred Verizon’s proposal to increase its stake in Verizon Communications India to 100% from the existing 74%.

Verizon had previously setup Verizon Communications India by forming a joint venture with Videocon Group’s Leo Communications way back in 2007. Verizon owned 74% stake in the joint venture while the remaining stake was owned by Leo Communications, as indicated by a NetworkWorld report.

Foreign telcos who have bought out or buying out its Indian shareholders

With this approval, Telenor is now the third foreign telco to receive the FIPB nod to buy out its Indian shareholders, after the government allowed 100% FDI in telecom in July last year.

– Vodafone was the first foreign telco to receive the FIPB nod and the telco had bought out its minority stakeholders for Rs 10,141 crore in April this year.

– FIPB had also approved Singtel’s proposal to acquire full control of its Indian unit Singtel Global (India) Pvt Ltd. It had received an approval for an investment of up to Rs 2.98 crore for this purpose.

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– In May this year, Sistema had sought for a FIPB approval to increase its 73.71% stake in Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd (SSTL) which operates in India as MTS India. The company eventually plans to buy out its Indian partner Shyam Telecom’s stake in SSTL, thereby increasing its stake in the company to 100%.

– AT&T had also sought FIPB approval to acquire Mahindra’s 26% stake in its Indian arm AT&T Global Networks Services India in June this year. FIPB approved this proposal in July this year.

Updates: Added more information on Verizon’s and AT&T’s proposals.

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