Telenor has received approval from India’s government to take full control of its local venture Uninor, opening the door for the Oslo-based operator to move more aggressively in the hyper-competitive market with 1.3 billion people.
Telenor will purchase the 26 per cent stake that it currently doesn’t own for IDR781 million ($13 million) from Lakshdeep Investment. The local venture, Telewings Communications Services, operates in seven of 22 regions (or locally referred to as circles) under the Uninor brand.
Telenor applied to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board in June for the approval.
The move to take full ownership comes a year after the government liberalised its foreign-ownership rules for the telecoms sector to allow 100 per cent ownership. Before the decision, the country had a 74 per cent cap.
Vodafone Group took full control of in April of its Indian subsidiary, after acquiring the 10.97 per cent stake held by minority investor Piramel Enterprises for $1.7 billion. The UK-headquartered operator has an 89.03 per cent stake in Vodafone India.
The investment broad also approved NTT Communications’ request to increase its holding in Indian data center and managed services provider Netmagic Solutions from 74 to 81.6 per cent.
Uninor has an estimated 33 million subscribers and is preparing to launch services in its newest circle of Assam. It has about a 4.5 per cent market share.
India, with a total of 13 mobile operators, had 884 million connections at the end of Q2, with an average of 1.88 SIMs per person, according to GSMA Intelligence.
A Telenor representative said its Indian operations participated in two separate auctions to acquire spectrum in the range of 5 to 7.2MHz in seven circles, which together represent more than half its population.
Uninor previously announced it will invest 30 per cent more, or INR5 billion ($82.7 million), to expand its network and distribution infrastructure.