UNITECH WIRELESS SECURES 5KCR SBI LOAN FOR INDIA OPS

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THE INDIAN arm of Norwegian telecom group, Telenor, has raised Rs 5,000 crore as a bridge loan from State Bank of India to fund the rollout of its operations in the world’s fastest-growing mobile market. The interim loan for Unitech Wireless is the first since Telenor bought a stake in it, a company executive said, adding that plans are underway to secure additional funding of several thousand crore.

He said the loan has been arranged by SBI Capital Markets but declined to divulge the terms of deal.

It had been reported last month that Unitech Wireless had begun preparations to raise up to Rs 10,000 crore over the next 18 months.

Unitech Wireless, which plans to launch mobile phone services by the end of 2009, was lent Rs 1,250 crore last year by a consortium consisting of Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank, Bank of India, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Central Bank of India and Vijaya Bank.

Chief corporate affairs officer Rajiv Bawa said the company has already placed “significant” orders for services and equipment to meet the target of launching its service by the end of the year. The company will outsource all infrastructure and back-end services to speed up the rollout, he added.

Unitech Wireless was among the nine companies given licences early last year to start mobile phone services. It has licences to provide services in all of the country’s 22 telecom circles.

In October 2008 Telenor signed a deal with Unitech to buy a 60% stake in the property developer’s mobile unit Unitech Wireless for Rs 6,120 crore. But in March 2009 the cash- strapped realtor agreed to give away an additional 7.25% stake to Telenor at no additional cost in return for not having to pump in more funds into the joint venture for the next two years and higher repayment of debt.

So far, Telenor has completed buying a 49% stake in Unitech Wireless for Rs 3,380 crore and is awaiting government approval to raise its stake to 67.25%.

Unitech Wireless recently signed a deal with the Tata-Quippo combine tower company for sharing its infrastructure. It has signed a deal with Wipro for managing its IT services and awarded contracts for network equipment in eight telecom circles to Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei and Ericsson.

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