Trade and Industry Minister Trond Giske is attempting to save rather than pass the buck in the continuing Telenor Indian mobile saga.
He took up the issue with the Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Tuesday. Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas was also present during the discussions.
Mr Giske told VG that he traveled there because of the huge Norwegian financial interests involved. It is believed this totals 17 billion kroner.
"We will do everything we can. It’s an inconceivable amount of money at stake,” he said.
The discussions form part of Norway's efforts to salvage the multi-billion kroner worth of telecom investments made by Telenor, which runs the risk of forced closedown. The Norwegian government owns close to 54 per cent stake in the company.
In February this year, the Indian Supreme Court withdrew the 122 telecom licenses that were awarded to eight operators because of the alleged irregularities in the way they were awarded in 2008. The court also called for a reallocation of licenses through an open auction.
Telenor risks losing 22 of its licenses as a result of the Court order, which is to come into effect on June 2, 2012. After this time, Telenor will have to stop providing mobile services in India.
Seven mobile operators affected by the order, including Telenor, had filed pleas seeking a review by the Supreme Court of its decision. The court overturned these on April 4, but agreed to review some observations that judges had made in the February order following pleas by the Indian government.
Minister Giske said to VG yesterday, “We have managed to get an agreement with the Finance Minister at the political level. We are very pleased.”
Nevertheless, he added, “It’s going to be a decisive week for Telenor's investment in India - with the Supreme Court hearing on Friday, and the telecommunications authorities probably telling us how the auctions will take place on Monday.”
"We want to bring about a solution that does not cost Telenor the shirt off its back and prevent the licenses being put out to open auction. That means the major mobile operators in India can gain ground.”
Telenor, who Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has urged to participate in the 2G auction process, has already threatened to seek damages and compensation for its investments from the Indian government if the license issue is not resolved.
The Indian government has not challenged the license cancellation.