Norway’s Telenor warns India on telecom impasse

India will lose vital foreign investment if state-run Norwegian telecom giant Telenor has to exit the country nursing multi-billion-dollar losses, a Norwegian minister warned on Saturday.

Telenor, which has a strong balance sheet, can absorb the $3 billion investment write-off it would face if it quits India due to telecom licensing problems, Trade Minister Trond Giske told reporters in New Delhi.

But Telenor's loss — which would "probably be the biggest" a Norwegian company has ever lost in a foreign investment — would make other firms think twice about putting money in India, Giske said.

"It would be fair to say it would influence the view of India as an investment country," said Giske, who was in India to push the government to ensure the survival of Telenor's Indian unit which has 17,000 workers and 40 million clients.

"If a company like Telenor can lose $3 billion in India, it has an effect on other foreign investors. They ask if your (state-controlled) company can lose that money, how will private companies be treated?" he said.

The problems roiling the telecom sector come as India is also under strong investor attack over retroactive legislation that could force British phone giant Vodafone to pay $3.7 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties.

Policy uncertainty has been one of the main criticisms of foreign investors, who have been demanding clear rules for them to keep pouring in billions of dollars in vital investment to spur economic growth.

Telenor was among eight mobile operators whose licences granted in 2008 were cancelled by the Supreme Court in January on grounds the sale was under-priced and corrupt in what has become one of the biggest scandals in India's history.

The court ordered an auction for new licences in which Telenor can take part.

But the telecom regulator has proposed a 10-fold hike in the spectrum auction base price from the 2008 sale and a big reduction in bandwidth up for grabs.

"If these recommendations become policy, Telenor will likely be forced to exit India" because the cost would be too high, Giske said.

The company's departure could also have "political implications," he said, addding that "Telenor is not just any company."

"Some 54 percent of the shares are owned by Norwegian people through the state and thus it has even further political implications that such a company will be harmed," Giske said, without elaborating.

His comments came after Telenor earlier in the week said net quarterly profit plunged to 583 million kroner ($100.5 million) from nearly 2.8 billion kroner a year earlier due to a writedown on its Indian operations.

Other Indian mobile operators also oppose the regulator's proposals.

They say the high auction price would make it unprofitable to make the huge investments needed to roll out mobile networks in poor, remote areas — seen as key to promoting "inclusive" economic growth — and also mean sharp tariff hikes.

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Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday

Found out what’s going on in Norway on Tuesday with the Local’s short roundup of important news.

Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday
The northern lights in Tromsø. Photo by Lightscape on Unsplash

One in ten international students in Norway has had Covid-19

Ten percent of overseas students studying in Norway, compared to just 2.9 percent of Norwegian students, have had Covid-19, according to the Students Health and Well Being Survey (SHoT).

Some 62,000 thousand of Norway’s 300,000 students responded to the survey.

READ MORE: Are Norway’s Covid-19 numbers on track for reopening?

Overall, nearly three percent said that they been infected with the Coronavirus, just over half have had to self isolate, and 70 percent took tests.

Woman in her 40’s charged with murder

A woman has been charged with murder in Halden, southeast Norway after a body was found in an apartment in the towns centre.

She will be questioned on Tuesday. A public defender has been appointed. 

Six police cars attended the scene at a small housing association in the centre of Halden.

A person found in the same apartment is being questioned as a witness.

Network provider Telenor’s revenues down 2.1 billion kroner compared to last year

Telenor’s revenues are down 2.1 billion in the first quarter and the company has written of its 6.5 billion kroner investment in Myanmar following Februarys military coup.

The mobile network operator became one of the first foreign providers in the country and had gained a 35 percent market share.

However, the country’s new military regime shut down the mobile network on March 15th.

“In Myanmar, we are experiencing a confusing and uncertain situation. We are deeply concerned about the development in the country,” The company stated in its quarterly report.

Norway and Sweden in reindeer border dispute

Swedish Sami reindeer herders will appear in court this week in a case against the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

The Swedish Sami herders believe they have exclusive rights to grazing areas across the Norwegian border because they have lived in the surrounding area for hundreds of years. The Norwegian government rejects these claims.

The reindeer grazing convention will be central to the case; the convention facilitates mutual cross-border grazing for reindeer herds.

Sweden withdrew from the convention in 2005. However, Norway enshrined the convention in law in 2005.

483 Coronavirus infections recorded

On Monday, 483 new cases of Covid-29 were registered, an increase of 75 compared to the average of the previous week.

READ ALSO: Norway considers lifting measures for people who have had their first Covid vaccine 

This is down from 1150 cases registered during the peak of Norway’s third wave on March 16th.

This is partly because fewer infections are registered during weekends and public holidays, causing an uptick on Mondays.