Telenor picks up stake in Unitech Wireless

Realty major Unitech announced a landmark deal in which it sold a majority 60% stake in its telecom venture Unitech Wireless for Rs 6,120 crore ($1.23 billion) to Norway-based Telenor. Telenor ASA is the largest Nordic phone company with mobile operations in 12 countries and over 150 million wireless subscribers. Outside the Nordic region, Telenor owns units in Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Pakistan, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Thailand. The Norwegian government is Telenor’s biggest owner, with a 54% stake in the company.Goldman Sachs advised Telenor on the transaction while Unitech was advised by UBS AG and Mumbai-based IDFC-SSKI Group.This is the second major deal to be closed by a club of new GSM licensees. Earlier, Swan Telecom, which has telecom licenses in 13 circles, sold 45% stake to UAE-based Etisalat for $900 million.Unitech was awarded pan-India mobile telecom licences for Rs 1,651 crore early this year and has been allocated GSM spectrum in 13 circles so far. The company plans to launch services in the first half of 2009.According to Unitech, the alliance will benefit from Telenor's experience in both high growth and mature telecom markets and Unitech’s reputation as one of India's most respected business groups.Unitech Wireless says it will be investing over $3 billion over the next three years to become a successful pan-India operator. The company says it has recruited over 250 employees and established offices across several cities.Incidentally, Telenor holds $2b equity in Pakistan’s second largest mobile operator Telenor Pakistan. This is the largest FDI from Europe in any sector in Pakistan and represents a significant commitment by the company. Telenor Pakistan, which launched services in March 2005, currently serves more than 18 million subscribers there through a country-wide network.

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