The Himalayan Times reports that Nepali telecoms service provider Smart Telecom (Nepal) has finally resolved a long-running dispute over its share ownership, and reached an agreement to seek out an international strategic investor to help it expand its service coverage nationwide. The firms involved in the dispute have yet to complete the legal formalities of their agreement, but both sides have stated that the ownership row is now over. ‘There is no dispute in the company now and we have also reached an internal agreement to bring in a strategic partner within six months,’ the paper quotes Dipak Timalsina, who represents River Road International, an investor in Smart Telecom, as saying. Timalsina said that the primary objective now is to find an international partner, noting that ‘the percentage of shares to be sold will be decided at a later date’, pending completion of due diligence. The River Road official did not, however, divulge how the changes will affect Smart Telecom’s overall share structure, saying it was an internal matter. Timalsina’s sentiments have been echoed elsewhere by Smart Telecom head of corporate communications, Pawan Shakya, who confirmed the matter was resolved, subject only to legal formalities and necessary documentation. He added that as Nepal’s telecoms market is competitive, Smart is doing its homework to bring in a strategic partner that has experience in the telecom market. In April 2013 Smart Telecom acquired a unified licence in the country, which allows it to operation multiple telecom services including nationwide mobile services – all under a single permit.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Smart Telecom is owned by Lal Sahu Distributions Limited of Singapore (80%), while Square Network Nepal has 20%. However, in November 2013 its ownership became mired in controversy after a group that claimed to have purchased a 54% equity stake in the telco appointed a chairman to its board. In response to the challenge, Smart’s sitting chairman Sachin Lal Acharya denied that any stake sale had taken place, adding that the founders had complete ownership of the company. Mr Acharya denied a report claiming that Dipak Timalsina – and representing River Road International Limited – had been appointed as the new chairman of Smart Telecom at its sixth annual general meeting (AGM). The chairman went on to accuse the River Road group of ‘changing the ownership using forged signatures of him and Satish Acharya, the owner of Lal Sahu Distribution’. For its part, River Road is adamant that it has taken a 54% shareholding. The matter is currently being investigated and Acharya has filed complaints of forgery with the police, the Lalitpur District Administration Office, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, the Department of Industry and the Company Registrar’s Office.