When the Union government’s department of telecommunications issued licences to nine firms on 10 January to roll out GSM-based mobile phone networks in the country, Unitech Ltd, India’s second largest listed real estate company, caught the industry’s attention as an entrant with roots in the realty business.
But, it has emerged now, there’s a second phone firm aspirant with its background in real estate: the Mumbai-based Dynamix Balwas group of companies. The group, which owns the property that the Le Royal Meridien hotel operates out of in a Mumbai suburb close to the international airport in that city, has a majority stake in Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd through two levels of holding companies.
New entrant: Vinod K. Goenka, a majority partner in Swan Telecom.
Swan Telecom has received a licence for rolling out operations in 13 of the 22 telecom licensed areas in the country.
The firm is yet to receive spectrum rights to roll out mobile phone services, but claims it is first in the queue to receive frequency.
The ownership of the company, which initially was linked with Reliance Communications Ltd, or RCom, India’s second largest wireless phone services firm, has not been clear until now.
RCom, which held less than 10% in the company, said earlier last year that it had sold its stake but declined to comment to whom.
Under Indian telecom rules, a company holding a telecom licence in one licensed area is not allowed to own more than 9.9% of another phone firm.
Dynamix Balwas, according to a company official, is an equal partnership between Mumbai businessmen Shahid U. Balwa and Vinod K. Goenka.
Balwa belongs to a family mainly engaged in realty development, while Goenka is the son of K.M. Goenka, the promoter behind Dynamix Dairy Industries Ltd, an integrated dairy company based in Baramati in Maharashtra.
Balwa, who is Swan Telecom’s managing director, in an interview on Wednesday, said his company was no longer associated with RCom in any way.
He said the RCom-owned 9.9% stake in Swan Telecom was divested to a Mauritius registered infrastructure fund, Delphi Investments Ltd, before the letter of intent was issued to Swan Telecom for spectrum allocation in January.
Ownership of Delphi Investments could not be immediately ascertained.
The remaining 90.1% stake in Swan Telecom is owned by Tiger Trustees Pvt. Ltd, which in turn is 99.8% owned by Dynamix Balwas Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd.
The remaining 0.2% is in the name of Parrot Consultants Pvt. Ltd and Zebra Consultants Pvt. Ltd, according to latest data with the Registrar of Companies in Mumbai.
In the interview, Balwa said his inexperience in telecoms wasn’t an issue and added Swan Telecom does not currently plan to look for a partner that brings in expertise in the business.
“We were initially thinking that Reliance (RCom) may continue to hold (the stake), and we may have some kind of alliance where we can use their infrastructure,” said Balwa.
“Having sold their equity, that cooperation may not be possible,” he added.
Balwa also ruled out chances of having any other Indian partner at the moment, given the 9.9% crossholding cap that disallows such a deal with an existing mobile operator, which operates in the same telecom licensed area.
“An international player, would not bring any thing other than capital and credibility and that we already have,” said Balwa, adding the decision could be revisited once the company rolls out its network.
Swan Telecom is planning to invest $2.5 billion, or Rs9,875 crore, in two years to roll out operations in 13 circles simultaneously, Balwa added.
“We have strong internal cash flows, enough to fund $2.5 billion telecom business expansion. However, we would like to raise funds,” he said, adding the company would consider debt to equity ratio of between 1.5:1 to 2:1.
“We may raise money through an initial public offer later,” he said.