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Marriage between Telinor and Unitech is on the rocks

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Ever since the Supreme Court delivered its verdict cancelling 122 mobile licences issued under a scandal-tainted 2008 sale, there has been a question mark on the fate of the joint venture between Norwegian telecom company, Telenor, and the Indian reality firm, Unitech.

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Now the Telenor has served a formal divorce notice to Unitech, seeking compensation from the Indian firm for damages caused to their mobile venture, Uninor, from a recent Supreme Court judgement. Telenor has also revealed that the company was looking for a new partner in India.

Telenor says that the company no longer believed that its strategic partnership with Unitech had a future. Sources familiar with the company’s plans reveal that the company had tapped London-listed metals group Vedanta Resources’ Indian arm, Sterlite Industries Ltd, and Kolkata-based Srei Infrastructure, which runs mobile tower company Viom Networks, to be its new partner.

Uninor is one of worst affected by the cancellation of 122 mobile licences. The company held 22 of these licences. Telenor owns 67.5 percent of the company. In 2009 it paid Rs. 6100 crore to buy into Uninor, which was then called Unitech Wireless. Subsequently Telenor invested another Rs. 8000 crore into the business, which now has around 40 million users.

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In a strongly wordered statement, Telenor said, “Telenor holds Unitech liable for the breach of warranties related to the cancellation of the licences, seeking compensation for all investment, guarantees and damages caused by the Supreme Court order.”

Unitech responded with an equally strong statement and warned it would take Telenor to court. “We reserve our right to take appropriate legal action against Telenor for damages caused to Unitech Group from breach of the confidentiality obligation by Telenor,” it said.

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