Norway’s Telenor has restarted talks with Tata Teleservices for a possible acquisition. The two companies had initiated discussions in 2012, but it went cold due to uncertainty over spectrum pricing and merger and acquisition norms. But now with the pricing issue set to get finalised in the spectrum auction in February, the two are back exploring options.

While Tata Tele did not respond to a query sent by Business Line , a Telenor spokesperson said the company did not comment on speculations. According to sources, the two companies have met several times. One of the options being discussed is for Telenor to acquire NTT DoCoMo’s stake in Tata Tele and then merging it with Uninor.

NTT DoCoMo, which owns a 26 per cent in Tata Tele, has decided to exit the Indian operations. The Japanese company had acquired the stake in March 2009 for $2.7 billion (₹13,070 crore at the then exchange rate). In case, the Japanese company fails to find a buyer for the shares, the Tata Group will have to buy them from DoCoMo.

Under the terms of the agreement, DoCoMo is entitled to get at least ₹7,250 crore for the entire stake, which is 50 per cent of its total acquisition price, from Tata Tele. However, even after eight months, this transaction is yet to happen with Tata Tele’s losses crossing ₹6,000 crore. NTT DoCoMo is understood to be looking at the option of moving an international court for arbitration to pressurise the Tatas to buy back its 26.5 per cent stake.

A deal with Telenor could bail out the Tatas, which at the Group level, seems to have taken a view to pull out of the telecom business at the earliest.

Telenor already has business links with the Tata Group, including a global IT services venture with TCS. It has also rented telecom towers from Viom, a joint venture between Tata Tele and Srei. Telenor had acquired fresh spectrum in seven circles for ₹844 crore and could go through the acquisition route to get a pan-India footprint.

In October, Telenor’s President and CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas had said the company will evaluate the opportunities as it comes. “Our objective is to be here long-term. Right now, we are concentrating where we are,” he said.

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