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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ananda’s telco deal under Indian CBI spotlight

Sulaiman Kamal | 12:03 AM | Best Blogger Tips

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The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation is looking into alleged discrepancies in the ownership change in Aircel by Ananda Krishnan's Maxis Communications.

KUALA LUMPUR: Business tycoon T Ananda Krishnan could face Indian investigations over his takeover of Chennai-based cellular company Aircel in 2006.
The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is looking into alleged discrepancies in the ownership change in Aircel by Ananda Krishnan’s Maxis Communications.
The inquiry, as directed by the Indian courts, is to examine decisions taken by the Indian Telecom Ministry, including the decision to allow the takeover of Aircel by the Malaysian telco giant.
A report in the New Delhi-based Economic Times today stated that the CBI is likely to name former Telecoms Minister Dayanidhi Maran and Maxis over the ownership change. Maran is now the Indian textile minister.
The daily reported that a preliminary investigation is expected to be filed before July 6.
“Yes, we are at an advanced stage of investigations into the case. We will be in a position to file the FIR (first information report) before July 6,” a CBI official added.
During the deal entered by Maxis to takeover Aircel in 2006, the Indian telco was owned by C Sivasankaran. CBI officials investigating the case believed that Sivasankaran was under pressure to strike the deal.
According to the Economic Times report, the CBI is likely to allege in the FIR that actions of Maran in not clearing Aircel’s application for licences and spectrum as a telecom minister caused Aircel to be sold to Maxis.
CBI officials believed, the report added, the delay in granting licence and spectrum to Aircel was a ‘ploy’ to get them to sell to Maxis.
“A person, who was close to the negotiations between Sivasankaran and Maxis at that time, confirmed that pressure was brought upon the former to dispose off his stake,” add the report.
CBI officials also claimed that Ananda Krishnan was close to the Maran family.
Astro’s deal under spotlight too
The report further stated that CBI was also investigating Ananda Krishnan’s satellite station Astro All Asia Networks’ (Astro) Rs830 crore investment in Sun Direct TV to see if it was linked with the Aircel buyover.
Sun Direct is a part of the Sun Group owned by Kalanidhi Maran, southern India’s largest vernacular language broadcaster. He is also minister Maran’s brother.
Economic Times said Dayanidhi Maran refused to comment on the matter.
Economic Times had reported on Feb 15, 2011, that CBI was interested in the transaction between Sun Direct and Astro.
Sun had previously denied any quid pro quo between Dayanidhi Maran and Astro of Malaysia. Sun had also said that the MoU with Astro was signed in 1997 when Aircel was not even in existence.
Ananda Krishnan’s Maxis is Malaysia’s largest cellular phone company with more than 10 million subscribers, with around 40% market share in Malaysia.
As for the agreement between Astro and Sun Network, Ananda Krishnan has been reported as wanting to produce TV channels which cater to the Indian market, especially Tamil diaspora in countries such as US and Europe.
Ananda Krishnan is Malaysia’s second richest man, with a personal worth of more than US$7 billion.

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