Telenor Rises on Report Vodafone May Buy Carrier’s Indian Unit

  • Telenor’s Indian spectrum reported to be valued at $1 billion
  • CEO Brekke has said operator will be ‘pragmatic’ on India

Telenor ASA, the Nordic region’s largest phone company, rose on a report Vodafone Group Plc is the frontrunner to buy its business in India.

Telenor shares climbed 2.3 percent to 140.5 kroner at 12:50 p.m. in Oslo trading, valuing the Norwegian government-controlled carrier at 213 billion kroner ($25 billion). The stock has slumped 5.3 percent this year.

Telenor entered India in 2008, but large investments in its networks are still needed if the carrier is to meet users’ soaring data demands -- money some investors say is better spent supporting markets where it has a stronger competitive position, such as Thailand, Malaysia and Pakistan. Telenor’s spectrum in India is valued at about $1 billion, the Economic Times reported, citing unnamed sources.

A Telenor spokeswoman declined to comment, as did a representative for Vodafone.

“An exit from India as soon as possible would make most sense rather than investing more in an operation that for various reasons, has not performed according to expectations over the past years,” said Christer Roth, an analyst at DNB ASA, who rates Telenor a buy.

Telenor has about 5 percent of the Indian mobile-phone market by subscribers, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, corresponding to about 52 million customers in April. That share places the Norwegian carrier eighth in the crowded market in the country dominated by Bharti Airtel Ltd., Vodafone and Idea Cellular Ltd. Vodafone had 198 million customers in April, for a market share of 19 percent, according to the regulator.

Oslo-based Telenor said in April its long-term presence in India is dependent on securing more spectrum to better compete in the growing data market. Chief Executive Officer Sigve Brekke vowed the company would be "pragmatic" and consider its options.

Newbury, England-based Vodafone has chosen banks to arrange a listing of its India business, which could raise as much as $3 billion and become the nation’s largest initial public offering, people with knowledge of the matter said in April.

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