Ministers approve new M&A rules as Uninor/Telewings complete licence transfer

4 Dec 2013

India’s government is set to give clearance to a new policy regarding mergers and acquisitions among the country’s telecoms operators. According to a report from the Times of India, the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), which is headed by the finance minister, has agreed that one operator buying another telco should pay market price for that telco’s wireless spectrum holdings over 4.4MHz of GSM frequencies and/or 2.5MHz of CDMA frequencies. Alternatively, the buyer can opt to hand back the excess spectrum for re-auction by the government to avoid having to pay the fees. The policy has now been sent to the Cabinet for approval. Separately, the EGoM also voted to increase the amount of 1800MHz spectrum that will be put up for sale in a forthcoming auction that is slated to begin in January 2014.

Separately, mobile operator Telewings, which operates under the Uninor banner, has announced that it is now operating under six 20-year unified licences which previously belonged to former Uninor shareholder Unitech Wireless. Telewings shareholder Telenor agreed to buy out ex-partner Unitech in October 2012 after the relationship between the two firms soured. Uninor is now wholly owned by Telewings, which is a 74/26 joint venture between Telenor and Lakshdeep Investments. Approvals were given by India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) earlier this year for Telenor to raise its stake in the operator above the previous threshold of 49%. Uninor’s unified licences cover the circles of Uttar Pradesh East, Uttar Pradesh West, Bihar & Jharkhand, Maharashtra & Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

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