TeliaSonera bites FDI bait

Kathmandu, October 16:

At a time when the government is urging foreign investors to come and invest in Nepal, TeliaSonera — a mobile communication services provider in Northern Europe and the Eurasian region — has chalked up plans for mega investment in Nepal.

“Well positioned in high growth emerging markets, TeliaSonera is planning a huge investment in Nepal,” TeliaSonera president Tero Kivisaari said and added, “Provided there is a level playing field.”

“Every player should have equal opportunity to compete,” he said, pointing out that competition was good. “Let the consumer choose who is better, or the best.” The result of a merger of the Swedish incumbent Telia AB and Finnish incumbent Sonera Corporation in December 2002, TeliaSonera has net sales of $14.2 billion. TeliaSonera Eurasia, one of its arms, is in the mobile communication business in high growth emerging markets.

Headquartered in Stockholm, it has recently bought the 50 per cent stake from Visor Group — a Kazakh investment and advisory firm — that holds 80 per cent stake in Spice Nepal Pvt Ltd, the provider of Mero Mobile phones in Nepal.

Nepal is in the early phase of introducing mobile technology that has great potential, according

to Kivisaari. “The current capacity is not sufficient and we are planning to increase the capacity of service,” he said.

Spice Nepal — the second largest mobile operator in Nepal — after the new alliance is expected to bring new strategy to increase geographical coverage. Mobile penetration in Nepal, with a population of 28.4 million, is approximately 13 per cent. “There is a huge potential in this market,” Kivisaari said.

To a query on whether there was a tariff cut in the offing, he replied diplomatically that the company was for providing quality service at affordable rates.

Spice Nepal launched its operations in September 2005 and has around 1.6 million subscriptions.

It has an estimated market share of 41 per cent as of August 2008.

Net sales of Spice Nepal in 2007 and for the first six months of 2008 were $41.1 million and $34.1 million, respectively. The private cellular mobile telephone service operator, Spice Nepal, with brand name Mero Mobile has a state licence for mobile services in Nepal in GSM 900/1800 and 3G 2.1 GHz.

Mero Mobile started its service with voice call and SMS, and in a short period of operations introduced services like voice mail, SMS2e-mail, missed call notification, mobile internet (GPRS/Edge), MMS, PRBT and other value-added services.