New Delhi, Oct. 26: Telenor has a new partner in India: Sudhir Valia, the brother-in-law of Dilip Shanghvi, who owns Sun Pharmaceuticals, India's biggest drug maker in terms of market value.
After formally severing its ties with real estate major Unitech just over a fortnight ago, the Norwegian telecom company struck a deal today with Valia's Lakshdeep Investments and Finance Pvt Ltd.
Sun Pharma sources said Shanghvi was not involved in this deal.
Valia is a whole-time director at Sun Pharma and listed as one of its promoters along with wife Raksha. Together, the Valias hold just over 25 million shares in Sun Pharma, translating into an equity holding of 2.42 per cent.
Valia's sister Vibha is married to Dilip Shanghvi.
"Telenor Group has, on 26th October 2012, through its new wholly owned Indian entity, Telewings Communications Pvt Ltd, signed a partnership agreement with Lakshdeep Investments and Finance Pvt Ltd, a company controlled by Sudhir Valia. This is a financial investment by Valia in his personal capacity," Telenor said in a statement.
Lakshdeep will be picking up a 26 per cent stake in Telewings Communications Services Private Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Telenor ASA, which will bid in the auction for spectrum in the 1,800 MHz band, starting November 12. The size of the deal is not known.
Telenor was also in talks with Navin Jindal of Jindal Steel and Power, the Kanorias of Quippo Telecom and Sterlite's Anil Agarwal.
The deal with Lakshdeep will allow Telenor to participate in the auction and protect its Rs 14,000-crore investment in the country.
According to the auction rules, foreign operators can own only 74 per cent in a mobile service provider and need to find a domestic partner before starting operations.
"Upon successful participation in the upcoming spectrum auction and post all required government approvals, Telenor Group will eventually own 74 per cent of the joint venture. Telenor Group will maintain operational control and upon necessary approvals all assets of Unitech Wireless (Uninor) will be transferred to this company for seamless continuity of operations," Telenor added.
Last week, the Norwegian operator had applied for participation in the November auctions under Telewings.
"Telewings has already applied for pre-qualification to participate in the upcoming spectrum auction. A final decision on whether to participate or not will be made before the auction starts," Telenor said.
Unitech had a 32.75 per cent stake in Uninor, the joint venture that Telenor formed in 2007 and which was awarded 2G spectrum in 22 circles in a flawed allotment process in January 2008. The Supreme Court struck down the allocation process in February this year.
Earlier this month, Telenor settled its dispute with Unitech. After an 18-month tussle, both partners agreed to transfer the assets and 45 million customers of the joint venture to a new company to be owned by the Norwegian firm.