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Norway's Telenor to Fight Indian License Cancellation

Norway's Telenor will continue to fight but exit from India is also an option, after India's Supreme Court ordered cancellation of telecoms licenses issued in 2008, including 22 held by its Indian joint venture.

An Indian shopkeeper shows China Mobile phones in his mobile phone outlet in Hyderabad on January 5, 2012. Indian customers seek cheap products which are only available in China. Bilateral trade between the two Asian economic giants has grown from just 2.33 billion USD in 2000-01 to 60 billion USD in 2010 and is expected to touch 100 billion USD by 2015.
Noah Seelam | AFP | Getty Images
An Indian shopkeeper shows China Mobile phones in his mobile phone outlet in Hyderabad on January 5, 2012. Indian customers seek cheap products which are only available in China. Bilateral trade between the two Asian economic giants has grown from just 2.33 billion USD in 2000-01 to 60 billion USD in 2010 and is expected to touch 100 billion USD by 2015.

Telenor has been "unfairly harmed" by the cancellation, said Sigve Brekke, head of the Norwegian company's Asian operations, adding legal options for the company include seeking a review of the court order.

"If you ask me am I angry and am I upset, the answer is yes. I am angry and upset, because it's very clear that we are unfairly harmed," Brekke told reporters.

"Despite that anger..., we are not going to roll down and die."

The court ordered last Thursday all licenses awarded in a scandal-tainted 2008 sale be revoked in four months and asked the telecom regulator to propose rules for grant of License and spectrum through an auction.

The companies, whose licenses were ordered canceled like that of Telenor's India joint venture, have the option to bid in the auction to regain the licenses.

Brekke said Telenor would decide on bidding for the planned spectrum auction after reviewing criteria and the reserve price, but the auction should be restricted only to those players who got licenses in 2008.

Telenor entered India in 2008 by taking a majority stake in a nascent mobile phone operator founded by Indian real estate company Unitech.

Telenor owns 67.25 percent of the joint venture, with Unitech holding the remainder.

The joint venture, which operates under the Uninor brand, has been the most aggressive of the newer telecoms companies in India and has close to 40 million customers, or more than a 4 percent share of the market of 894 million.

Telenor, majority-owned by the Norwegian government, has said Norway is monitoring the situation in India and would help it find a solution to protect its investments in India.