Friday, January 6, 2017

Supreme Court bars Aircel from changing airwave ownership, potentially delaying merger

The Supreme Court on Friday barred Aircel Ltd from transferring the ownership of its airwaves while a corruption case centred on a past deal involving the mobile phone carrier was ongoing, potentially delaying an agreed merger.

The court, led by Chief Justice J. S. Khehar, also said it would ask the government to cancel Aircel's airwave permits if two executives at Malaysian parent Maxis Bhd did not appear at a trial court within two weeks.

The action comes as Aircel and the wireless network division of Reliance Communications Ltd work towards merging, with the resulting company shared equally between Reliance, controlled by billionaire Anil Ambani, and Maxis, controlled by tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan.

But Ananda Krishnan and aide Augustus Ralph Marshall are among a number of people charged two years ago in relation to Aircel's 2006 sale to Maxis, which prosecutors allege was aided by a former telecommunications minister. All of the accused have denied wrongdoing. 

The two executives have been summoned to appear before the court by have yet to appear, local media reported.

Ananda Krishnan's office did not respond to a Reuters request for comment. Aircel and Reliance Communications declined to comment.

Shortly before the court order, Aircel completed the sale of its fourth-generation (4G) network airwaves to Bharti Airtel Ltd.

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