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Telenor Group acquires 100% stake in Uninor

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Norwegian telecom operator Telenor Group has informed that it has increased its stake in Telewings to 100% by acquiring the remaining 26% stake held by its Indian partner Lakshdeep Investment & Finance.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it’s worth noting that Telenor had received an approval for an investment of Rs 780.86 crore from Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) last month.

Telenor had sought for FIPB approval to buy out its minority stakeholders in Uninor in June this year and 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 that provides telecom services in the country under the Uninor brand. This was after the Indian government allowed 100% FDI in telecom in July last year.

Telenor is currently operational in six circles – UP East, UP West, Bihar & Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh. The telco had earlier  shut 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.

However, it later 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. The company expects to launch services in Assam early next year.

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Other telcos: Vodafone had also bought out its minority stakeholders Piramal Enterprises & Analjit Singh for Rs 10,141 crore in April this year, to increase its stake in Vodafone India to 100%.

Singtel’s proposal to acquire full control of its Indian unit Singtel Global (India) had also received FIPB approval in January this year whereas Sistema’s proposal to increase its 73.71% stake in Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd (SSTL) was reportedly rejected last month.

Telewings Timeline

October 11, 2012: Unitech exited from the Uninor joint venture after a fierce legal battle with Telenor. A Telenor vs Unitech timeline here.

October 26, 2012: Telenor signed up with Lakshdeep Investments & Finance Pvt. Ltd, a company controlled by Sun Pharma’s Sudhir Valia to set up Telewings Communications. The company had then said that Telenor will eventually own 74% of the joint venture, following all requisite government approvals. It will also maintain the operational control of the venture and all assets of Unitech Wireless will be transferred to this company for seamless continuity of operations, following requisite approvals.

November 2012: Telewings secured spectrum in six circles including Maharashtra, Gujarat, UP (East), UP (West), Bihar and Andhra Pradesh in the November 2012 2G auctions. The company paid Rs 4,018.28 crore for this spectrum.

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December 2012: Uninor shut down operations in six of the then 13 operational circles, focusing only on the new six circles.

February 2013: Uninor was forced to abruptly shut down operations in Mumbai circle, following a Supreme Court order last week that directed all operators who did not win spectrum in the November auctions to close down services immediately.

June 2013: Telenor got FIPB approval to increase its Telewings stake to 74%. It had received an approval to invest up to Rs 1,000 crore in the joint venture.

September 2013: Telenor mentioned that Uninor had achieved EBITDA break even in five of its six circles – UP (West) and Bihar, UP (East), Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

December 2013: Telenor increased its stake in Telewings to 74%. It also finally received unified licenses that it had won in the November 2012 auctions.

January 2014: Telenor had mentioned that Uninor had reached cash flow break even at the end of 2013, on track with the telco’s plans.

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February 2014: Uninor acquired spectrum in a new circle of Assam along with additional spectrum in four of its six existing circles – UP East, UP West, Bihar & Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh in the February 2014 2G auctions.

June 2014: Telenor had sought FIPB nod to increase Uninor stake to 100% from 74%. It had stated plans of investing Rs 780 crore for this purpose.

September 2014: Telenor receives FIPB nod to acquire 100% stake in Uninor.

October 2014: Telenor acquires 100% stake in Uninor.

Also read:

“We Are Moving Out Of Data, Moving Into Internet” – Uninor CEO On Its Facebook & Whatsapp Deal
– Uninor’s Internet revenues grew by 42% in H1 2014; Internet users up 32%
– 20% of Uninor customers are active data users
– 3G data ecosystem not evolved in India, 2G sufficient – Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas

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