Telenor appoints Morten Karlsen Sorby as CEO of Uninor; Indian arm achieves cash break-even

Norwegian telecommunication giant Telenor has appointed Morten Karlsen Sorby, currently the head of strategy and regulatory affairs of the group, as the chief executive officer of its Indian arm Uninor, with immediate effect.

Sorby had joined Telenor in 1993 and served as a member of the group’s executive management team since 2003. Prior to his appointment as head of strategy and regulatory affairs of Telenor, Sorby worked as the head of Telenor's Norwegian and Nordic mobile and fixed network operations. 

Sorby has done his MBA from the Norwegian School of Economics and is a state-authorised public accountant in Norway. 

He takes over from Sigve Brekke, who was appointed as the interim CEO of India unit last November after Yogesh Malik had resigned from his position within six months of heading Uninor citing personal reasons. Brekke will continue serving Telenor as executive vice president and head of its Asia operations. 

Telenor group’s president and CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas said, “Morten's vast experience from the global mobile industry and solid leadership skills will inject new energy and further insights into the already empowered Uninor team.” 

Sorby’s appointment comes after the near decimation for Uninor from India following the 2G scandal which led the country’s apex court to cancel its licences. 

In 2012, Telenor signed a partnership agreement with Sudhir Valia-controlled entity for a fresh joint venture that would seek to bid for a new licence for operating telecom services in India. This follows a bitter corporate divorce between Telenor and its previous local partner Unitech Group in their venture Uninor. 

Telenor, through its wholly owned Indian entity Telewings Communications Pvt. Ltd (Telewings), has signed the deal with Lakshdeep Investments & Finance Pvt Ltd to come in as an Indian partner in the venture. The maximum FDI allowed in the telecom sector was 74 per cent, till recently; so Telenor needed to bring a new partner to own as much as 26 per cent of the venture to confirm to sectoral investment norms.

Lakshdeep is a privately held entity controlled by Sudhir Valia, executive director at Sun Pharma, who also happens to be the brother-in-law of Dilip Shanghvi, the founder and promoter of the country’s top pharmaceutical firm by market capitalisation.

At present, Uninor serves over 26 million customers in India and the firm said it has achieved operational cash flow break-even at the end of 2013 in all the six circles—UP East, UP West, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra & Goa and Gujarat—it currently operates.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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