Telenor Hikes Stake in Indian Joint Venture to 49 Percent

Norwegian telecom operator Telenor has invested 11.3 billion rupees (US$236 million) in Unitech Wireless, an Indian mobile services startup with licenses and spectrum to roll out mobile services in many parts of the country.The new investment gives Telenor a 49 percent stake in Unitech, up from 33.5 percent, said Unitech in a filing on Wednesday to the Bombay Stock Exchange.Unitech Wireless was set up in 2007 by a company in the real-estate business. Telenor said last year that it was investing in stages in Unitech Wireless to gain a majority share and operational control of the joint venture. It is investing 61.2 billion rupees for a 67.25 percent share in Unitech Wireless.India's mobile services market is booming. The country added 15.64 million subscribers in March, up from 13.82 million in February, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. The total number of subscribers at the end of March tallied 392 million for a population of about 1.2 billion.Telenor said last year that India's low mobile penetration rate provided opportunities to the company.Vodafone, another European operator, in 2007 acquired control of Hutchison Essar, a large Indian mobile services provider. The company was renamed Vodafone Essar.Telenor also paid 2.4 billion rupees this month as share application money for issuance of additional equity shares in Unitech Wireless in order to maintain its stake at the 49 percent level, after conversion of bonds into equity for an Indian shareholder.

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