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After FIPB nod, ByCell plan may hit DoT wall

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Thomas K. Thomas
Ambarish Mukherjee

New Delhi, Jan. 7

THE Switzerland-based investment company ByCell Holdings AG's move to invest Rs 457 crore in setting up cellular network in India could hit rough weather with the Department of Telecom saying that the decision by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to approve the proposal was despite the department seeking more time for examining the proposal.

"Telecom is a security sensitive sector and we had sought deferment of a decision for studying the proposal at the FIPB meeting," said senior DoT officials. They added that the proposal by ByCell could be looked into again when the company along with its Indian joint venture partner approaches the department for licence. There have been numerous instances in the past where FIPB had deferred or denied approval to proposals in the telecom sector, when DoT had raised objections.

The Finance Ministry said on Friday that it had given the approval to ByCell Holding for investing Rs 457 crore in a new joint venture company to offer cellular services in the country.

ByCell Holdings has been permitted by the Government to pick up to 74 per cent stake in the new joint venture, which is planning to offer cellular services in 13 States, including Assam, Bihar, North-East, Orissa and West Bengal.

While no details are available about the Indian partner in the joint venture, as per information available on the Internet, ByCell manages investments in the areas of the information technology and telecommunication. The company has been registered in Switzerland.

However, not much is known about the company. According to the FIPB, the proposal did not merit any further examination because it was as adhering to all the parameters laid down in the present FDI policy of the DoT.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 8, 2006)
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