By BS Reporter
Norwegian telecom major Telenor on Monday said it had settled the loans of its Indian joint venture, Uninor, amounting to Rs 9,809 crore.
Uninor had raised short-term loans from Indian banks, which Telenor had guaranteed. Some of these lenders are known to have sent notices to the company. They have also turned down a request by Uninor to extend these loans. "Lending banks have claimed under the guarantees. Consequently, fulfilling its guarantees, the Telenor group has directly settled all of Uninor's loans with respective banks. This allows Uninor to continue its current operations," read a Telenor statement.
After a Supreme Court decision early this year, the company had lost all 22 of its telecom licences. Since the 2G telecom spectrum scam broke out in mid-2010, many banks turned jittery in lending to telecom operators. The cancellation of licences only added to lenders' concerns.
"Telenor paid us back immediately after the problems emerged. As of now, nothing is outstanding," said a senior State Bank of India official associated with corporate lending.
The bank is known to have had substantial exposure to the company.
Telenor, engaged in a tussle with joint venture partner Unitech, blames the real estate company for its woes. "One of Uninor's shareholders has repeatedly refused to fund the company through its own funds, and has also actively worked to stop the majority shareholder from doing so. In the absence of a rights offer, Uninor has relied on short-term loans from Indian and international banks fully guaranteed by Telenor group," said Telenor.
Earlier, Unitech had stopped an attempt by Telenor to go for a rights issue and bring equity into the company, by filing a law suit.
More recently, Unitech had appealed to the Company Law Board, which stayed Uninor's attempt to go for an asset auction. After the stay was granted, Uninor stated Unitech continued to block the only chance its employees had for sustained employment. "It is unfortunate the stay has been granted. Uninor will pursue every legal measure available in Indian courts to secure the interest of the company's creditors, customers and employees. Meanwhile, the company's operations continue as before, as this process has no impact on these," Uninor had said.
Uninor has about 45.5 million subscribers and operates across 21 circles.