Telenor seeking new partner in India, with Tata a possibility

Telenor has formed a collaboration with Citi Global Markets India in order to select a new Indian operating partner. The Scandinavian operator has been part of a joint venture in India since 2009, but this year announced that it was seeking to pull out of this and find a new partner.

Telenor holds 67% of Uninor, a startup operator formed with Indian real estate firm Unitech. The startup’s 22 2G licences were rendered invalid following the Indian Supreme Court’s annulment of 122 2G licences in February.

There have been reports that Telenor is holding preliminary discussions with major Indian operator Tata Teleservices over the possibility of a partnership, although the firms are believed to be waiting until the rules for the upcoming 2G auctions are made public before they announce anything.

Potential options for the two firms include merging Telenor’s Uninor assets with Tata Teleservices, or Telenor acquiring interest in Tata – whether in part or in full – from NTT Docomo. Telenor’s EVP and regional head for Asia Sigve Brekke said earlier in the year that a new partnership would be required before the 2G auction began.

After the Indian Supreme Court ruled that they were issued unfairly, the 122 2G licences allocated in 2008 have been annulled, with auctions for 2G licences set to take place this year. The decision prompted many foreign operators to reconsider their presence in India, and a number decided to withdraw.

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