Despite being a small rural operator, Nepal Satellite is considered as a spectrum rich operator in local telecom market. “The shares in Nepal Satellite Telecom were held through intermediate not wholly-owned holding companies,” said the Annual Report 2011of the Teliasonera. It said that it acquired “indirectly 51 percent of the shares in the Cypriot holding company Airbell Services Ltd., which owns 50 percent of the shares in the Nepalese mobile operator Nepal Satellite Telecom.”
Teliasonera owns 80 percent stake in Ncell, a rapidly progressing mobile operator in local market. In 2008, Group Visor, a Kazakh company and Russia based Non-Resident Nepali (NRN) businessman Upendra Mahato had jointly sold the 80 percent share of Ncell (the than Spice Nepal) to Teliasonera Asia Holding B.V in which Teliasonera holds 75.45 percent.
At the same time, Mahato who had been holding 20 percent stake in Ncell, has transferred his ownership of the share to his business partner Niraj Govinda Shrestha who is also an NRN from Russia. The duo—Mahato and Shrestha have jointly investment in number of countries including in Nepal. Shrestha has investment in banking and hydropower sector in Nepal.
As per the teliasonera report, it has bought 50,000 shares of the Nepal Satellite Telecom at 174 million Swedish kronor (equivalent to Rs 2.13 billion). Besides the 50 percent of Airbell, the remaining 50 percent of the Nepal Satellite share are shared among -- Muktishree Telecom 40 percent, Samjhana Aryal (Lalitpur) 5 percent, Pakistan Mobile Communications 3 percent and Bangladesh based Sheba Telecom owns 2 percents, according to Nepal Telecommunications Authority.
However, a local investor in Nepal Satellite, Ajay Sumargi said that he was not aware of any changes in Airbell’s stake in the company. “I don know anything on this issue,” said Sumargi, who is also the director of the Nepal Satellite.
Nepal Satellite is considered rich one with the spectrum it possesses. It has a total of 14.6 MHz (5.6 MHz in GSM 900 band and in 9 MHz in GSM 1800 band), of which only around 15 percent is in the use with 0.14 million users. Moreover, on Tuesday, NTA has issued international distance calls (ILD) gateway licence to Nepal Satellite. With this, the operator will be able to easily send and receive international traffic which has become a main source of income for other operators so far
Meanwhile, Teliasonera on Thursday said that it reached an agreement in order to further increase its ownership in Ncell. It has also sold 18.6 percent stake in Cambodian operator Smart Mobile, in line with its strategy to be a strong majority owner in core holdings such as Ncell.
Tero Kivisaari, president of Teliasonera’ Business Area Eurasia in a press release issued on Thursday said that the agreement gave Teliasonera the possibility to further increase ownership in Ncell when local regulations allow for increased foreign ownership in Nepal. “If and when the agreement regarding the increase of ownership is finally consummated, TeliaSonera will increase its ownership in Ncell by 12.43 percent,” states a press release issued by Teliasonera.