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Uninor MD: Looking For Solution

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Norwegian telecom major Telenor Group, which is a joint partner in Unitech Wireless Ltd, warned that the ongoing 2G licence imbroglio will badly affect the overall foreign investment climate in the country and not just the telecom sector.

"This (the impasse following the Supreme Court cancelling all the 122 2G licences issued after January 2008) impacts every foreign investor. Not just telecom, this will worry the board of every foreign company here if any genuine licence on which billions of dollars have been invested could be cancelled tomorrow for no fault of the investor.

"I hope this does not happen because India is a destination that foreign investors look at," Uninor Managing Director Sigve Brekke said in Mumbai on Sunday.

"It is for the government to protect and encourage lawful foreign investment. We have faith in the Indian government.

This is out of the courts and with the government now. We are looking to the government for a reasonable solution," he said.

Brekke stated that his company came in the country as the government encouraged competition and foreign investment.

"We came to India on the government's invitation. We were asked to come and compete. We took as many new customers in 2011 as the biggest No 1 operator. We are in the competition the government wanted.

Even if you aren't a Uninor customer, you have benefited from us. A customer in Delhi pays 60 per cent higher tariffs than a customer in Mumbai. Is it a coincidence that there are no new operators in Delhi? If new competition is removed, this will happen across the country," he said.

Brekke claimed that his company has been unfairly harmed despite following the due processes.

"We had nothing to do with any of these policies. We did not devise them. We did not implement them. Why should we be penalised for simply following the process that the government asked us to follow," he asked.

Uninor has lost all its 22 licences following the SC order on February 2.

Telenor has so far pumped in Rs 14,000 crore in the country and holds 67.25 per cent in Unitech's mobile arm Unitech wireless whose service is branded as Uninor.

On February 15, Telenor had officially sought compensation from its domestic Unitech, holding Unitech liable for the breach of warranties related to the cancellation of the licences.

Pointing out that the spirit behind the telecom policy was to bring in competition, Brekke said the benefit of that has been proven by most of the players.

Demanding that the new auction be open only to the new players (those who lost the licence), Brekke said, "The new solution should, therefore, not change the spirit of bringing in new competition. Only new operators should be able to participate in the new solution. The SC ruling makes it clear that this is only for fresh licences."

He also demanded that the last discovered price of Rs 1,658 crore should be the reserve price in the new auction and that the auction price must apply to any operator that has not paid market price. Same rules should apply for everyone and all operators must pay market price for all spectrum they hold.

Reiterating that his company will stay on in India, Brekke said, "We will fight. We are not running away. This I can tell you very clearly. We have made lawful investments here and we will do everything we can to protect them. And we are finding support wherever we go. Norwegian government is our largest shareholder and has said it will work actively to secure Telenor's investments and presence here."