Cancellation of licence by court is a setback to our business in India, says Yevtushenkov
In spite of the setback in the telecom sector, Russian business conglomerate Sistema’s Chairman Vladimir Yevtushenkov told The Hindu that the company’s relationship with India will continue.
As Indian diplomats prepare to tell Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday that it won’t be possible to resolve Sistema’s telecom problems quickly, they are also working on two agreements with a Sistema sister company in the area of satellite navigation.
Sistema has already signed an MoU with ONGC Videsh. Though Sistema has offered an opportunity in Bashkortostan in partnership with another subsidiary Bashneft, ONGC is keener on Sakhalin-III and Trebs and Titov oilfields in the Timan Pechora region.
As Mr. Yevtushenkov put it, “We have refused offers from some companies in the Arabian peninsula and China which wanted to buy some of the stake. We want to start negotiating but they aren’t prepared to sign any agreement.”
Simultaneously, the Sistema chief felt the Supreme Court order cancelling all telecom licences (which negated his company’s investments as well) has proved to be a setback to the company’s business in India.
“The cancellation of Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd’s licences will definitely have a bearing on how Russian companies look at India as an investment destination,” he cautioned, adding that he continues to view India as a strategic market, and is hopeful that all pending issues will be resolved soon.
“We don’t exclude partnering with Indian companies in various sectors, including hydrocarbons, but it should be strongly linked to the investment climate,” he noted.
Giving his side of the story, Mr. Yevtushenkov pointed out that Sistema came to India on the invitation of the Indian government and complied with all legal and regulatory requirements before entering the market. “Sistema has always maintained that the company has done no wrong. It believes that the Supreme Court, in its order dated February 2, 2012, didn’t consider several relevant submissions made by Sistema Shyam TeleServices, which were specific and unique to its case.
“We believe that we are being unfairly penalised for acting in good faith and in reliance on the appropriateness of the procedures established by India’s telecommunications authorities,” he said.
To protect the interests of its shareholders, including the Russian government, which holds 17.14 per cent stake in the company, Sistema Shyam TeleServices has already filed a curative petition before the Supreme Court. “We are hopeful that the highest court of the land in India will look into the merits of the case and give Sistema Shyam TeleServices justice,” said the Sistema chief.
The company has already invoked its right under the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between India and Russia — the right to go for international arbitration and seek damages from the Indian government.
“As the January 18 deadline is fast approaching, we are hopeful that the Indian government will move quickly to resolve all pending issues on or before December 24,” he said.