Norway presses India on cancelled mobile permits

Norway raised its concerns with the Indian government on Tuesday about a Delhi court decision cancelling mobile phone licences held by Norwegian phone giant Telenor.

India's Supreme Court last week scrapped 122 telecom permits, including 22 held by Telenor's majority-owned Indian unit, on the grounds the 2008 licensing process was underpriced and rigged.

Norway's information technology minister Rigmor Aasrud raised the issue with Indian telecom minister Kapil Sibal, to seek "fair treatment" for Telenor.

"We took up Telenor's case," she told reporters in New Delhi after talks with Sibal. "We had a good, fruitful and constructive meeting."

Norwegian state-backed Telenor is the majority shareholder in Uninor, a joint venture with Indian real estate player Unitech.

The licence sales are at the heart of one of India's biggest corruption scandals in which former telecom minister A. Raja is alleged to have mis-sold the permits and favoured some firms, costing the treasury up to $39 billion.

Telenor has said it is "considering all legal options" to resolve the problems embroiling its Indian subsidiary, which has 40 million customers, including filing a petition to review the court ruling.

Telenor paid $1.1 billion for its stake in the Indian mobile firm when it entered the country in 2009. Other foreign investors whose licences were cancelled include Gulf-based Etisalat and Russian conglomerate Sistema.

Sistema said on Tuesday it was preparing to file an appeal asking the Supreme Court to review the licence cancellations. It is the majority stakeholder in joint venture Sistema-Shyam which lost 21 out of its 22 licences.

A plaintiff can seek a review of a Supreme Court judgement within 30 days of it being passed, and if that plea is dismissed another one, known as a "curative petition," can be filed.

The licence cancellations take effect in four months, after which new auctions are to be held to re-allocate the permits. Those companies whose licences were scrapped have the right to bid.

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